Achilles Tendon Tears

By Andrew Heideman, MPT, ATC, PES

Achilles Tendon Tears

By: Andrew Heideman, MPT, ATC, PES

The Achilles tendon is the largest tendon present in the body, and spans from the heel to the middle of the lower leg. Its function is to attach the calf muscle, which comprises of the two heads of the gastrocnemius muscle and the soleus muscle to the heel bone called the calcaneus.

JOI Anatomy of the Lower Leg

Anatomy of the Achilles Tendon

These structures combine to allow for the ankle to perform the movement of plantar flexion, or pointing your foot away from you. Plantar flexion is involved in:

  • standing on your tiptoes
  • pushing off to run
  • landing from a jump

Despite the size and strength of the Achilles tendon, it is prone to injury because of the high stress that is placed on the tendon because of its inherent function. Certain conditions can increase a person’s risk of serious injury. The effect of aging can weaken the tendon, as well as chronic tendinopathy from disuse or poor gastroc-soleus muscle length.

A torn Achilles tendon is an injury that can result from a weakened state, and can be a partial or full tear (most common). Typical mechanism of injury includes a sudden change of direction, requiring a push off, or landing from a jump. In this condition, the ankle is forced into dorsiflexion, resulting in high-tensile forces resulting in the tendon failing.

What are the common signs and symptoms of Achilles Tendon Tears?

  • sudden onset of severe pain (feeling of being kicked in the back of the leg)
  • an audible “pop”, swelling/bruising, and severe weakness in the ankle

Seeking medical advice immediately is important, as early intervention typically improves the outcome of any intervention.

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