Achilles Injuries

The Achilles tendon is the longest and thickest tendon in the body that connects the calf muscles to the heel bone (calcaneus) behind the ankle joint. It is named after the Ancient Greek warrior Achilles who was felled after an arrow was shot into his unprotected Achilles tendon. Achilles tendon injuries are common in runners but can also occur in football players. Injuries can be subdivided into tendinopathy (or tendonitis) and complete ruptures.

Achilles tendinopathy can be subdivided into mid-substance (mid-tendon) and insertional (tendon-bone junction) injuries. There is usually calcification associated with the insertional type.

Achilles tendon ruptures commonly occur in active middle-aged men. They often occur in sports such as tennis and squash as they involve rapid acceleration movements. Middle-aged men are more susceptible to this injury because tendon ruptures tend to occur when there is underlying degeneration in the tendon. For unknown reasons, tendon degeneration is greater in males than females (when performing the same level of activity). Achilles tendon ruptures generally require surgery or long-term immobilisation before a player can return to their previous level of function.

Achilles tendon rupture also occur in professional athletes at the peak of their careers. Olympic 100m gold medalist Donovan Bailey from the 1996 Atlanta Games tore his Achilles tendon playing basketball in 1997. He was unable to compete at his former level after this injury.

While Achilles tendon ruptures can prematurely end a sprinter's career, football players can usually return from an Achilles tendon repair and cope with a small loss of speed. David Beckham ruptured his Achilles playing for AC Milan in 2010. He missed the World Cup due to this injury. Justin Hodges of the Brisbane Broncos ruptured his Achilles tendon in the 2010 NRL pre-season and missed the entire season.

The video below from La Trobe University demonstrates Achilles tendon eccentric strengthening exercises.
David Beckham Achilles Tendon Rupture
David Beckham ruptured his Achilles tendon playing for Milan in 2010. He missed the World Cup as a result of this injury.
(Image sourced from Associated Press)
Donovan Bailey Achilles Tendon Rupture
Olympic Gold Medalist and World Champion sprinter Donovan Bailey ruptured his Achilles tendon in 1997.
(Image sourced from Associated Press)