I remember watching the final scenes of the 2004 epic movie “Troy,” starring Brad Pitt, who played a fierce and relentless warrior in this tale by Homer of love and war in ancient Greece. While all through the movie he narrowly escaped injury and death, in this one particularly intense moment, he is caught off-guard from behind with an arrow through the back of his foot at the top of his heel. I winced in pain. Ouch! That’s going to leave a mark! No doubt, his character sustained the proverbial Achilles tendon rupture, but for the record, I don’t think I ever want an injury to be named after me if that is what I would have to endure to receive such an “honor.”
What exactly is the Achilles tendon? It is a strong, fibrous cord connecting the muscles in the back of your calf to your heel bone. When you overstretch this area, it can tear or rupture. Such a tear can be partial or complete.
When your Achilles tendon ruptures, you might feel a pop or a snap, and if that does not get your attention, the sharp pain you will immediately feel right after that in the back of your ankle and lower leg will alert you to a problem. Most likely, you will not be able to walk properly, and you may feel as if you have been kicked, shot….or, just like Pitt’s unfortunate character, punctured by the sharp tip of an arrow that has pierced your heel going mach one from behind!
In addition to the pain, you may notice swelling near your heel. You may have difficulty in bending your foot downward, and you might not be able to push off the injured foot when you walk. Standing up on your toes on the injured leg will not be possible, either.
If you think you have ruptured your Achilles tendon, please don’t do what our movie hero did and pull the arrow out. You are better off seeking prompt medical attention, especially if you cannot properly walk after the injury.
The Achilles tendon is what allows you to point your foot downward or to rise on your toes and push off of your foot as you walk. It is an integral part of the motion you make every time you move your foot.
Ruptures to the tendon are caused by a sudden increase in the amount of stress you put on it, such as seen in increased participation in recreational sports, falling from a significant height, or stepping into a hole.
The peak age for a rupture to the Achilles tendon is 30 to 40. Men are five times more likely to sustain this injury than women. (I could have told you that! How many women are out there bravely fighting battles like Pitt’s character?) If you carry extra pounds, this can add to the stress you place on the tendon. A tear to the Achilles tendon is more likely to occur in sports that involve running, jumping, and sudden starts and stops.
A common form of treatment for a complete tear of the Achilles tendon is surgery, which involves making an incision in the back of your lower leg and then stitching the tendon together. (Achilles was so tough in the movie, he probably just fixed his on the spot and got back to his battles!) The tear may possibly be reinforced with other surrounding tendons. After the procedure, you will probably have to endure six to eight weeks with your leg in a walking cast, boot, brace, or splint. (This will give you plenty of time to watch “Troy” and continually wince as you replay that pivotal scene, announcing to all in the room, “Hey! I have that same injury!” Of course, yours probably involved a ball, a tennis court, and a few former high school friends who should have known better. Chances are, you won’t be able to brag that you tore your tendon while battling large and ominous forces in Ancient Greece.)
If surgery is not necessary, you will most likely have to wear a cast or walking boot, which will allow for the ends of your torn tendon to reattach themselves on their own. However, with this non-invasive approach, the likelihood for re-rupture is greater and your recovery can take longer. Expect to return to your former level of activity within four to six months--and leave any warrior-like fighting for those folks in the movies! Besides, wouldn’t you rather have a sandwich named after you?
(Information for this post was found at http://www,mayoclinic.com/health/achilles-tendon-rupture/DS00160/METHOD=print)