Posts tagged achilles tendon rupture
Calf Muscle Weakness Remains Up To 7 Years Post Achilles Tendon Repair
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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.

Return to Play after Achilles Tendon Rupture

Achilles tendon ruptures mainly occurs in middle aged adults, males > females, participating in sports with high levels of jumping or high force activity.  The repair and recovery time of these tendon ruptures is lengthy due to the post operative immobilization, weight bearing, and exercise restrictions.  Prior research has shown only 1 in 2 athletes returns to play at 1 year post op.  Among these athletes who do not return some may either choose not to return to their previous sport due to fear of reinjury while others have placed themselves at greater risk of injury due to not restoring their leg's strength, balance, agility, and coordination to pre injury levels.  

A recent article in the British Journal of Sports Medicine reviewed the available evidence to determine an athlete's ability to return to play after achilles tendon repair.  (Zellers et al. 2016).  The authors reviewed 108 studies of over 6500 patients and found on average 80% of athletes return to play at pre injury levels.  The average time to return to sport after a course of Physical Therapy was 6 months.

Athletes are encouraged to use Physical Therapy following an Achilles Tendon injury to accelerate their healing and improve their chances of recovery.