If you are familiar with the Greek epicThe Iliad by Homer, you may know the story of Achilles. Achilles was the most powerful warrior in all of Greece. He is virtually undefeatable, if not for one small weakness, what is now known as the Achilles tendon. Potentially an equally powerful modern day warrior is Robert Mathis, defensive end of the Indianapolis Colt. Robert Mathis is one of the all-time greats. He is currently the number twenty on the all-time sack leaderboard and was one of the youngest players to ever reach the 100-sack mark. Unfortunately, like Homer’s Achilles, Mathis also has a weakness.
The Achilles tendon connects the heel bone to the calf muscle and it happens to be one of the longest tendons in the body. This tendon is actually somewhat vulnerable to injury, especially in athletics. It can be injured from overuse and overstretching. When an injury occurs there is often a popping or snapping sound. There is swelling, pain, and inability to push off and walk. The onset of pain can often be sudden and excruciating.
A torn Achilles tendon often requires surgery. The orthopedic surgeon makes an incision in the lower leg and sews the ruptured tendon back together. Once the surgery has been completed successfully, the healing process can begin. This process usually takes about four to six months. The first step of rehabilitation is immobilization and requires the individual to where a cast, brace, splint, or walking boot for about six to eight weeks. After immobilization, the individual can begin the process of strengthening. This includes the use of range-of-motion, strength, and balance exercises. Typically you would start with range-of-motion exercises of the leg and as the tendon heals you can begin working in range-of-motion exercises of the ankle, as well as strength and balance exercises. Crutches or a walking boot should be continuously used to protect the healing process. It is possible to recover from an Achilles tear without surgery; however this is only recommended for those who are less active as there is a greater chance of re-injury if treated non-surgically. The process of healing and rehabilitation is essentially the same whether the surgical or non-surgical approach is utilized.
While these injuries can often times be completely unanticipated, there are precautionary measures that can be taken to reduce the risk of injury. It is very important to properly warm up your leg muscles with dynamic exercises such as jumps, lunges, knee-lifts, and jumping jacks. In addition if you are at risk of injury to the Achilles you should spend plenty of your exercise regimen on strengthening your calf muscles. Remember, the Achilles tendon connects the calf muscle to the heel bone and the best way to prevent an injury to a tendon is to have strong supporting muscles.
Robert Mathis has been in league 10 years and a ruptured Achilles at this point in his career could be a devastating blow to his career. However, Robert Mathis has proven time and time again to be one of the toughest football players there is. He has personally vowed to return from this injury and you can color me a believer.
If you have been experience foot discomfort or ankle pain, contact our renowned sports medicine specialists at Orthopedic Surgery San Diego for an evaluation.