Sport injury series: Achilles tendon Q&A

Ahmad Malik With summer on our doorstep, we are becoming more active and prone to sports injuries. Our Q&A series will cover the more common sports injuries, how to prevent them or treat them.

Mr Ahmad Malik, Consultant Orthopaedic and Trauma Surgeon at BMI The Chiltern Hospital and BMI The Shelburne Hospital, offers his insights on a rather common sports injury: the Achilles tendon injury. Mr Malik explains how we can injur this area, what are the treatment options and the recovery. You can also read about Mr Malik's advice about ankle sprains.

Mr Ahmad Malik
This is when the Achilles tendon snaps. The Achilles tendon connects the calf muscle to the heel bone. When it ruptures you are unable to stand on tiptoe, and point the foot down and will have a flat-footed walk. While it typically occurs in patients most commonly while playing recreational sports it can occur from innocuous injuries such as stepping off a kerb.

Mr Ahmad Malik
Most patients describe hearing a pop, bang or feeling the tendon snap. Quite often they feel as if someone has kicked them from behind. While some people complain of a sharp pain, many have no pain whatsoever. Any pain is short lasting and replaced by an ache. Patients will lose normal power in their leg and walk with an obvious limp. Patients describe losing the "spring" in their step.

Mr Ahmad Malik
Examination will reveal whether a gap exists, however an ultrasound scan will confirm whether the tear is complete or partial, whether the torn tendon ends come together, the site of the rupture and whether it is amenable to repair.

Mr Ahmad Malik
To enhance recovery and maximise probability of return to pre injury levels of activity, surgery is recommended. We use the latest minimally invasive technique with cutting edge technology to achieve this. However, if you want to avoid surgical risks non operative treatment is an option, but advisable only in those patients whose tendon ends come together. Your surgeon will be able to guide you.

Mr Ahmad Malik
Benefits include lower risk of re-rupture, return to normal power and strength and enhanced recovery and return to sports. Risks (less than 1%) include infection and blood clots.

Mr Ahmad Malik
Treated non operatively recovery can take 12 months. Surgical repair will result in recovery in 4 to 6 months.