Achilles Tendon

The Achilles tendon is the strongest tendon in the body and attaches the calf muscles to the heel bone. Walking and other physical activities place stress on the tendon that can lead to inflammation (tendonitis) and small tears within the tendon. Occasionally, the Achilles tendon may rupture. Most ruptures happen in males between the ages of 30 to 40 who are usually playing tennis, basketball or soccer. Patients with Achilles tendon rupture usually describe as if they were hit in the back of the leg and may or may not have heard an audible “pop”.  Rupture of the Achilles tendon usually requires surgery to restore normal function to the patient.

Risk Factors

  • Inadequate stretching prior to exercise
  • Tight or weak calf muscles 
  • Engaging in sudden strenuous physical activity (often called the “weekend warrior”)
  • Taking certain types of antibiotics, such as Cipro or Levaquin

Symptoms of an Achilles Tendon Rupture

Achilles tendon ruptures are usually caused by sporting activities, frequently accompanied by a popping or snapping sound. Patients usually experience severe pain and swelling near the heel and are unable to walk normally or lack push-off strength with the affected leg. Because these symptoms are similar to those of other conditions, such as bursitis and tendonitis, it is important to seek prompt medical attention in order to determine the correct diagnosis. 

Diagnosis of Achilles Tendon Rupture

Achilles tendon ruptures are usually diagnosed by physical exam. X-rays are usually obtained to rule out an avulsion type fracture, in which the Achilles tendon pulls off a piece of the heel bone when rupturing. MRI’s are also used in the diagnosis of chronic Achilles tendon ruptures, however rarely used in acute ruptures.

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