Achilles Tendon Rupture
Achilles tendon rupture is when the achilles tendon breaks. The achilles is the most commonly injured tendon. Rupture can occur while performing actions requiring explosive acceleration, such as pushing off or jumping. The male to female ratio for Achilles tendon rupture varies between 7:1 and 4:1 across various studies.
The Achilles tendon is most commonly injured by sudden plantarflexion or dorsiflexion of the ankle, or by forced dorsiflexion of the ankle outside its normal range of motion.
Other mechanisms by which the Achilles can be torn involve sudden direct trauma to the tendon, or sudden activation of the Achilles after atrophy from prolonged periods of inactivity. Some other common tears can occur from overuse while participating in intense sports. Twisting or jerking motions can also contribute to injury.
Fluoroquinolone antibiotics, famously ciprofloxacin, are known to increase the risk of tendon rupture, particularly Achilles.
People who commonly fall victim to Achilles rupture or tear include recreational athletes, people of old age, individuals with previous Achilles tendon tears or ruptures, previous tendon injections or quinolone use, extreme changes in training intensity or activity level, and participation in a new activity.
Most cases of Achilles tendon rupture are traumatic sports injuries. The average age of patients is 29–40 years with a male-to-female ratio of nearly 20:1. Fluoroquinoloneantibiotics, such as ciprofloxacin, and glucocorticoids have been linked with an increased risk of Achilles tendon rupture. Direct steroid injections into the tendon have also been linked to rupture.
The Achilles tendon is the strongest and thickest tendon in the body, connecting the gastrocnemius, soleus and plantaris to the calcaneus. It is approximately 15 centimeters (5.9 inches) long and begins near the middle portion of the calf. Contraction of the gastrosoleus plantarflexes the foot, enabling such activities as walking, jumping, and running. The Achilles tendon receives its blood supply from its musculotendinous junction with the triceps surae and its innervation from the sural nerve and to a lesser degree from the tibial nerve.
Diagnosis is made by clinical history; typically people say it feels like being kicked or shot behind the ankle. Upon examination a gap may be felt just above the heel unless swelling has filled the gap and the Simmonds' test (aka Thompson test) will be positive; squeezing the calf muscles of the affected side while the patient lies prone, face down, with his feet hanging loose results in no movement (no passive plantarflexion) of the foot, while movement is expected with an intact Achilles tendon and should be observable upon manipulation of the uninvolved calf. Walking will usually be severely impaired, as the patient will be unable to step off the ground using the injured leg. The patient will also be unable to stand up on the toes of that leg, and pointing the foot downward (plantarflexion) will be impaired. Pain may be severe, and swelling is common.
Sometimes an ultrasound scan may be required to clarify or confirm the diagnosis. MRI can also be used to confirm the diagnosis.
Treatment options for an Achilles tendon rupture include surgical and non-surgical approaches.
There are two different types of surgeries:
During an open surgery an incision is made in the back of the leg and the Achilles tendon is stitched together.
In percutaneous surgery, the surgeon makes several small incisions, rather than one large incision, and sews the tendon back together through the incision(s). Surgery may be delayed for about a week after the rupture to let the swelling go down. For sedentary patients and those who have vasculopathy or risks for poor healing, percutaneous surgical repair may be a better treatment choice than open surgical repair.
There are three things that need to be kept in mind while rehabilitating a ruptured Achilles:
To briefly summarize the steps of rehabilitating a ruptured Achilles tendon, you should begin with range of motion type stretching. This will allow the ankle to get used to moving again and get ready for weight bearing activities. Then there is functional strength, this is where weight bearing should begin in order to start strengthening the tendon and getting it ready to perform daily activities and eventually in athletic situations.