Achilles Tendon Tear
Over two-thirds of all Achilles tendon ruptures occur during sports. A complete rupture is especially common in sports with stop-and-go movements, such as ball sports. The majority of patients suffer a ruptured Achilles tendon when suddenly stopping during a fast vigorous movement. Here, the Achilles tendon tears usually about 5 cm above the tendon insertion. Particularly at risk for a torn tendon are athletes who have previously suffered from Achilles tendon problems.
What are the symptoms of a ruptured Achilles tendon?
Often the person affected feels a whip-like stroke followed by weakness in the affected leg – usually, even walking becomes impossible. Additionally, there is a significant dent palpable at the height of the tear. After clinical examination and special function tests, the experienced physician can accurately diagnose the rupture. Imaging tests such as ultrasound and magnetic resonance (MRI) scans are used for a more detailed diagnosis.
How is an Achilles tendon injury treated?
Not every torn Achilles tendon needs an operation. Recent studies have shown that even conservative treatments, such as immobilizing the leg can be successful. This process requires an immobilization brace and a special shoe to be worn continuously (even at night) for the period of approximately six to eight weeks to properly support the tendon. After that, the brace and shoe must still be worn for about two weeks, but only during the day. An intensive physiotherapy program training the calf muscles should be started about six weeks after the incident to restore function and coordination. After another 10 - 12 weeks, it will be possible again to run on even ground.
However, it has been shown that the chance of a tendon rupture to recur is higher after a conservative treatment than after surgery. Depending on the type of post-treatment, 10 - 15 percent of those affected can expect, at some point to again suffer a tear of the Achilles tendon. Moreover, in cases not treated by surgery, a permanent weakness of the footprint is significantly more frequent, which restricts the ability to again participate in sports.
Due to a new surgical technique, in most cases an operative treatment is the better choice!
The operative treatment of Achilles tendon rupture has significantly evolved over the past years. Today, the objective is to permanently connect the ruptured tendons using modern suturing techniques and possibly adhesive materials.
After surgery, the tendon is fully functional again. Casts and crutches, that were required in the past for several weeks after surgery, are no longer necessary. Instead, post-treatment includes wearing a special shoe (Adimed Vario Stable), meaning that after a few days the patient can put weight on the operated leg again. The patient can start immediately with physical therapy followed by appropriate training.
The philosophy behind such an early functional treatment is that tissue adequately adapts to stress and thus accelerates the healing process. For the patient, the modern surgical treatment of Achilles tendon rupture has the distinct advantage that no prolonged hospital stay is necessary. The patient can return to work a few days after the surgery and only needs crutches for a few days.
What type of treatment is required after an Achilles surgery?
Postoperative treatment includes:
- Hospital stay is approx. two nights
- Brace and relief with crutches usually five to seven days
- Special shoe should be worn about six weeks
- Moderate physiotherapy for first to sixth week after surgery
- Training therapy seventh to twelfth week after surgery
- Cycling can be continued approximately six weeks after surgery
- Moderate running training about 14 weeks after surgery
- Ability to fully participate in active sports: about four to six months after surgery
Who specializes in the treatment of an Achilles tendon rupture?
The orthopedic team for sports medicine at the KLINIK am RING in Cologne is highly specialized in the treatment of sports injuries and disorders. The team relies on many years of expertise and experiences in the treatment of Achilles tendon ruptures and offer professional consultation regarding the treatment of injuries to amateur athletes.