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The Achilles tendon is the largest tendon in your body. It connects the muscles in the back of your lower leg to your heel bone (e.g., the calcaneus) and must withstand large forces during sporting exercises and pivoting. There are two main types of injuries that affect the Achilles tendon: overuse and inflammation, called Achilles tendonosis, and, a tear of the tendon.
Your Achilles tendon may tear if it is overstretched, usually while playing sports. The tear may be partial or complete, and it most commonly occurs just above your heel bone. A snap or crack sound may be heard at the time of injury.
To reduce your chance of developing Achilles tendon problems, follow these tips:
A person with a ruptured Achilles tendon may experience one or more of the following:
In diagnosing an Achilles tendon rupture, a foot and ankle surgeon will ask questions about how and when the injury occurred, and whether the patient has previously injured the tendon or experienced similar symptoms. Your surgeon will examine the foot and ankle, feeling for a defect in the tendon that suggests a tear. Range of motion and muscle strength will be evaluated and compared to the uninjured foot and ankle, as well. If the Achilles tendon is ruptured, the patient will have less strength in pushing down, as on a gas pedal, and will have difficulty rising on the toes. The diagnosis of an Achilles tendon rupture is typically straightforward and can be made through this type of examination. In some cases, however, your surgeon may order a MRI or other advanced imaging tests.
Surgery is typically needed for a complete rupture. After surgery, your ankle will be kept stable in a cast or walking boot for up to 12 weeks. A torn ligament may also be managed non-surgically with a below-knee cast or boot, which would allow the ends of the torn tendon to heal on their own. This nonsurgical approach may take longer to heal, and there is a higher chance that the tendon could re-rupture. Surgery offers a better chance of full recovery and is often the treatment of choice for active people who wish to resume sports.