With the start of summer comes a rash of knee and ankle injuries on the basketball court sustained by middle-aged weekend warriors. These basketball wannabes leave their sedentary desk jobs and attempt to jump and sprint down the court, striving to relive their glory days as a high school or collegiate star. The only problem is that their bodies, including their Achilles tendons, are 20 to 30 years older.
While injury to the ankles and knees are the most frequently encountered sports-related trauma (see First Aid for Ankle and Knee Injuries), Achilles tendon rupture is also quite common, especially among older athletes. The Achilles is a fibrous tendon that connects the calf muscles to the back of the heel. The tendon is stretched when the foot pushes off from the floor. As we age, the tendon becomes less elastic, making it more vulnerable to rupture. When this happens, the patient typically hears a loud “pop”, and feels sudden pain behind and above the heel. The calf muscle may ball up, looking substantially bigger, and the back of the ankle will swell (see picture). The patient will have difficulty and pain with walking, especially when trying to push off with the affected foot. If Achilles tendon rupture occurs, it is important to not put weight on the affected foot (ie: use crutches), ice it and see a physician promptly. To decrease risk of injury, always spend adequate time stretching your Achilles, as well as your calf muscles, hamstrings and thigh muscles prior to any athletic activity. Most importantly, know your limits.
If you have experienced any of these symptoms and are a patient of North Idaho Direct Primary Care, contact our office to schedule an urgent appointment. If you are not a member of our practice and would like to learn about what we do, click here to read more. If you found this article helpful, click here to sign up for our monthly newsletter.