Calf Muscle Weakness Remains Up To 7 Years Post Achilles Tendon Repair
Achilles tendon ruptures are most commonly seen in patients 30-40 years of age and 4-5 times more likely in males versus females. The injury is often associated with a sudden increase in force placed upon the tendon either from rapid progressions in sport activities or trauma (ex. fall from height). These injuries can also occur in patients who have a history of unresolved Achilles tendinopathy with residual tendon and calf muscle weakness. Many of these patients who sustain a rupture do well with either Physical Therapy or surgical repair.
Brorsson and colleagues examined patients who underwent Achilles tendon repair after a rupture to determine how the calf muscles heal and perform following this intervention (Am J Sp Med. 2017). 66 patients were followed over time to determine how quickly their strength, power, and jumping ability returned compared to their uninvolved leg. The authors reported a rapid improvement in strength following the surgery followed by slower recovery of strength, power, and jumping ability up to 2 years. No further gains were found after this time point and patients continued to demonstrate weakness and limited muscle performance up to 7 years after the surgical repair.
This study highlights the importance of continuing to rehabilitate the injured extremity first in Physical Therapy and then independently at home. Patients are encouraged to continue a lower body strength training program to both improve function and decrease risk of re injury.