Surgical Repair of Achilles Tendon Injuries
The Achilles tendon connects the calf muscles to the heel, linking the lower leg to the foot. When you activate your calf muscles, they pull on the Achilles tendon to raise up the heel. This job is incredibly important for activities like walking, running, jumping, swimming, and driving—virtually every activity which involves moving the foot. Fortunately, the Achilles tendon can handle these strenuous motions because it is the longest and sturdiest tendon in the human body.
This does not make it impervious to damage, though. When the Achilles tendon suffers too much acute stress or wears down over time from chronic stress, it can tear or rupture completely.
Achilles Injury Risk Factors
Not everyone is at risk to injure their Achilles tendon. Since it is a strong, thick cord, it is much harder to damage than other tendons. The following types of people are the most susceptible to suffer an Achilles tear or rupture.
- Males between the ages of 30 and 40
- Athletes in high-impact sports like basketball, soccer, tennis, and track and field
- Overweight individuals
- Those with a medical history of steroid treatments or use of tendon-damaging antibiotics
The most common scenario for an Achilles tendon injury is a male playing sports. Many sports place significant strain on the Achilles since athletes must sprint, change direction rapidly, and jump on the run while playing. Less commonly, people injure their Achilles when they suddenly step into a hole or onto a surface lower than expected.
Achilles Tendon Surgery
Serious Achilles tendon injuries typically require surgery, though an orthopaedic specialist should make that decision. For younger, more active patients, doctors normally elect to surgically repair the Achilles tendon. Here is a brief outline of the procedure:
- The surgeon will make an incision through the calf to access the tendon
- Finding both ends of the ruptured tendon, the surgeon will sew them back together
- If the tendon is damaged beyond repair, the surgeon will use a tendon taken from elsewhere in the body to replace the Achilles
If the patient is older or inactive, nonsurgical treatment might be the better option. This involves months of rest and immobilizing the ankle to reduce tendon swelling. However, letting the Achilles mend naturally is typically not recommended for athletes, as there is a good chance for re-injury. Speak with a foot and ankle specialist to see which option would be best for you.
St. Augustine Orthopedic Surgeons
Though a ruptured Achilles tendon can keep you sidelined for months, our team of surgeons and rehabilitation specialists at Orthopaedic Associates of St. Augustine can help you make a full comeback. Whether your injury requires surgery, physical therapy, protective braces, or a combined approach, we are committed to doing whatever it takes to get you back to doing what you love most. For an appointment, fill out our request form online or call 904-825-0540.
KURTIS HORT, MD
Diplomate of the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery and a member of the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society. Dr. Hort specializes in reconstructive procedures of the foot and ankle.