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Achilles tendon tears

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Description

The Achilles tendon is the longest tendon in the body. It runs down the back of the leg and connects the calf muscle to the heel bone. It helps raise the heel off the ground while walking. It’s also prone to injury, including tearing during intense activities.


Causes and symptoms

Common activities can injure the Achilles tendon, including running, basketball, baseball, football, soccer, volleyball and tennis. Men ages 30–50 are prone to Achilles tendon tears.

A torn Achilles tendon feels like being hit with a baseball bat in the back of the heel. It causes pain and swelling. And it can make walking difficult.


Diagnosis

Diagnosis is usually made during a physical exam. The doctor will examine the foot and ankle to evaluate range of motion and the condition of the tendon. An MRI may be done to confirm that a tear has happened.


Treatment

For the best long-term outcome, early treatment is important. A partial tear may not require surgery, but it might be necessary to wear a cast. For more serious tears, surgery offers the best chance for normal function.

It involves:

  • Stitching the two ends of the torn tendon together
  • Putting a cast on the area
  • Using crutches or mobility aids for four to eight weeks
  • Following a course of physical therapy

Recovery and return to full function take approximately six months.

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