What is an Achilles tendon rupture?
There is a tendon that connects the muscles of your calf to the heel bone (in medical jargon this tendon joins the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles to the calcaneus). There are a number of activities that are common for Achilles ruptures, these include:
Effectively any sport where the athlete joint or bursts repetitively will be at increased risk of Achilles tendon rupture. There are also a number of other risk factors that put people at risk of the injury. These include:
- Having recurrent Achilles tendinitis (this is the pain in the Achilles tendon caused by repetitive use or strain)
- Using corticosteroids (ie to treat autoimmune disease)
- Injections of steroids into the joint around or near the Achilles tendon (eg the ankle)
- Using a certain class of antibiotics known as the quinolones
An Achilles rupture usually follows a familiar story. The patient will describe a sudden painful blow to their heel that can often be accompanied by an audible snap (people describe this as hearing their tendon “pop”). Usually, patients get bruising and pain, especially when they push off the affected leg.
Achilles Ruptures on the rise.
A recent study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports looked at the number of Achilles tendon rupture injuries over the last 33 years. The results are interesting. The authors portray a picture of increasing incidence (eg more people are getting the injury than ever before). They report that 2.1 per 100 000 persons a year has the injury in 1979 whilst an incredible 21.5 in 100 000/year had the injury in 2011.
There’s a number of theories about why there has been such a dramatic rise in the injury. These include an increase of sedentary lifestyles across the western world – although this does not fully account for the sports people getting injured. The increased in this population is suspected to be because people are playing more sport at an older age – often on an intermittent basis.
Whatever the true reason for the rise in the injury proper treatment and rehabilitation is incredibly important for people who have active lifestyles or play a lot of sport. As such it is essential these individuals seek specialist treatment at one of a number of specialist centres across the United States of America. Here patients can expect top quality service that will have them on their feet (literally) in no time. In fact, its estimated that non-specialist (ie an emergency doctor) may miss the correct diagnosis almost 20% of the time. There are a number of reasons for this that include non-classical histories (eg the patient doesn’t describe an audible snap, an often taught feature in medical school) that may lead the diagnosis astray. For this reason – specialist care is essential in the treatment of an Achilles tendon rupture.