One vital part of the body that is susceptible to sports-related activities is the Achilles Tendon, or sometimes called as the heel cord in layman’s term. It is the largest tendon in the human body made of fibrous tissue in the back of the ankle that connects the powerful gastrocnemius (calf) muscles to the calcaneus (heel bone). Thanks to this tendon, we are able to do activities like walking, running and jumping.
However, this vital part needs to be protected because it can easily be injured. Traumatic rupture of the Achilles tendon, a complete tear through the tendon generally within the tendon sheath, occurs during activities when there is a sudden contraction of the calf muscle with the foot fixed firmly to the floor or ground. Example situations are starting a foot race or jumping, falling from a significant height or a forceful overstretching of the tendon.
Sharp pain and the inability to point the foot forward are what the patient usually experiences according to Brunner and Suddarth (Textbook of Medical-Surgical Nursing, p.1079). When this happens, it is highly recommended to have an immediate surgical repair of complete Achilles tendon to obtain satisfactory results. The best way to prevent an Achilles tendon injury from getting worse is to address the injury immediately. To immobilize the joint after surgery, it is a requisite to use a cast or a brace. After the required time for immobilization has been achieved, wearing a heel lift and performing progressive physical therapy are recommended to promote ankle ROM (range of motion) and regain back the strength lost.
Like any other, prevention is always better than cure. There are so many ways on how we can actually prevent this from occurring. It is best to have effective training and conditioning of the body before engaging in sports or recreational activities. Specific training needs to be tailored to the person and the sport. Slow, gradual and proper stretching and warming up of the body and the Achilles tendons are very important before any kind of exercise or sport. Preparing the body for sport activities increases the person’s flexibility and decreases the incidence of musculoskeletal injuries. After exercise, it is just as important to do cool down to allow the muscles to have gradual transition out of activities.
So the next time you play your favorite sport, give your body enough time to be ready for the extremes.