Did you know that the Achilles tendon is the thickest and strongest tendon in the human body? It is about 15 cm long and connects the calf muscles to the heel bone.
When the calf muscles flex, the Achilles tendon pulls on the heel which allows you to point your toes toward the floor or raise on your tiptoes, as well as push off for propelling the body forward as you walk. You rely on it virtually every time you walk, jump or move your foot in any direction.
Try to feel it – at the back of your ankle and above your heel you will feel a springy, narrow band of tissue. That’s the Achilles tendon!
Prone to injuries
Despite its strength, the Achilles tendon is vulnerable to injury, because of the limited blood supply the tendon receives, and the high tensions placed on it. This is especially true in sports that engage the calf and the heel a lot, such as squash, tennis, basketball, football or running, where a rapid push-off is required.
The injury can be mild or moderate and it may feel like a burning pain or stiffness in that area of your leg. If the pain is severe, your Achilles tendon may be partly torn or completely ruptured, and that’s when you should contact a sports medicine doctor in Boca Raton without unnecessary delay because your injury may require surgical intervention.
How to prevent the Achilles tendon injury?
A tear, or rupture, of the Achilles tendon is one of the most devastating injuries which a competitive and recreational athlete can suffer. But not just an athlete. It can happen to anyone of us who walk, jog, wear high-heels or play with kids.
Luckily, there is much that can be done to reduce the chances of injuring the Achilles tendon:
- Choose proper footwear for your discipline. Tennis shoes differ from regular sneakers for a reason. Always wear well-fitting athletic shoes with proper cushioning in the heels.
- Avoid wearing high-heels. Wearing high-heels for an extended period isn’t good for your feet and isn’t good for your Achilles tendon either. The steep angle at which the foot is placed shortens the calf muscle and makes the Achilles tendon stiffer and thicker. Ironically, it isn’t a problem as long as the high-heels are worn but, after some time in high-heels, walking flat-footed will lead to discomfort because without the steep angle the muscle and the tendon are stretched beyond their “new normal” range of movement.
- Always warm-up before exercising. Warming up prepares your body for exercise. When the body’s temperature increases, the joints loosen up and the blood flow to the muscles increases. Only warm, well-lubricated joints and warmed-up muscles can sustain abrupt movements without injury.
- Stretch calf muscles after a workout. Never stretch a cold muscle and never rush stretching exercises. After the workout, when the muscles are warm and pliable, stretch your calf and hold for 15 seconds just below the feeling of discomfort (until you feel a noticeable pull but not pain). Don’t bounce during the stretch! Calf-strengthening exercises promote flexibility and help the muscle and tendon absorb more force preventing it from injury.
- Increase training intensity slowly. Achilles tendon injuries commonly occur after an abrupt increase in training intensity. Increase the distance, duration, and frequency of your training by no more than 10 percent weekly.
A tendon injury, depending on its severity, can be a serious problem and may result in excruciating pain and permanent disability if untreated. Always consult a specialist at sports medicine Boca Raton if you sustain an Achilles tendon injury.
Learn more about Boca Raton sports medicine and Boca Raton orthopedics
Orthopaedic Surgery Associates has helped many professional and recreational athletes get back on their feet throughout the years. We have qualified orthopaedic specialists and state-of-the-art technology. With us, you are in good hands! For more information, request an appointment or call us directly at (561) 395-5733.
The material contained on this site is for informational purposes only and DOES NOT CONSTITUTE THE PROVIDING OF MEDICAL ADVICE, and is not intended to be a substitute for independent professional medical judgment, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Â Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your health.