Avoiding an Achilles Tendon Rupture
Easily one of the worst and injuries you can get from training is an Achilles tendon rupture. It’ll side-line you for months and the rehab is a long and tough road.
Unfortunately there are many movements and workouts which place tremendous strain on your Achilles and injury is a common occurrence, even though it’s more often strains and tendonitis. Avoiding an Achilles tendon rupture can be fairly simply if you avoid high risk factors. Here is what you need to know…
Your Achilles tendon is the largest and strongest tendon in your body. Tendonitis is common and is normally due to overuse, where microscopic tears of the collagen fibres cause ongoing pain. A rupture is where your Achilles either partially or completely tears. A complete rupture might not be immediately recognised when it happens or it can be a severe incident and something major is recognised straight away.
Your goal at the time of injury is to seek medical help as soon as possible to ensure you have it sorted out and you can start the road to recovery quicker. There are higher incidents in men than women, and symptoms include a sudden sharp pain in the Achilles tendon, and often it’s described as if someone knocked you on your ankle quite hard. There will be swelling and a lack of power and a lack of the ability to stand on your toes.
Typically it’ll happen after a few minutes of exercise and mostly it happens due to sudden and explosive movements and often repetitive overload can cause the same outcome. Additionally, if you have limited flexibility in your calf muscles, if you have flat feet or if you use bad technique in certain movements, you’re at more risk of an Achilles injuries.
So, when it comes to functional fitness, CrossFit, strength and conditioning, or even running, it’s important to know which movements and actions could cause you problems.
The major problem comes when explosive jump type actions take place. The eccentric phase, when landing, causes the Achilles to stretch while the calf muscles are contracting and lengthen. When you jump up, the concentric phase, your calf contracts again and they shorten this time. When you do this is quick succession, this quick shortening and lengthening under tension puts your Achilles under a lot of pressure and therefore risk of rupture. There are several movements you need to be aware of therefore…
High repetitions and snappy box jumps are a big culprit. Those touch-and-go box jumps are a much higher risk and put a lot more pressure on your Achilles. Rather op to step down, or jump of and jump back on, but ensure you stop and the bottom.
The high repetitions and the jumping action again does much the same as box jumps. Although, because your jumps or lower and the pressure is less, you’re less likely to succumb to an Achilles injury. Ensure that if you have any tendonitis or Achilles pain, rather don’t do any double unders or high rep skipping.
During certain phases of running your Achilles may be under many times your body weight in the force experienced. Short, hard and fast sprints with quick turn-arounds are one such type of running.
Work on the mobility and strength of your calf muscles. Stretch and mobilise your calf, but don’t bounce when stretching. This will improve your range of movement and lessen the risk of injury.
Mix up your exercises. Avoid consecutive activities that place excessive stress on your Achilles tendons, like hill running and jumping activities. Alternate high-impact movements with low-impact movements throughout your training program.
Choose a running surface where you limit running on hard or slippery surfaces. Also ensure you run with proper form to avoid unnecessary tension.
Increase training intensity gradually. If you increase the intensity of training by 10% each week, you should be fine. Often increasing by too much too soon, especially if you’re doing training which puts lots of pressure on your Achilles, you will have a much higher risk of injuring yourself the next time you include a similar movement through your legs and ankles.
If you have any Achilles pain or niggles, do not risk it by doing any movements or training which places any force or pressure on your Achilles. If your Achilles is even slightly injured your risk of a rupture is greatly increased.