Achilles Tendon Ruptures Can Be Career-Ending for Athletes

Do professional athletes make full recoveries following Achilles tendon ruptures?

Whether you are an avid sport’s fan or someone who really doesn’t pay much attention, some things related to professional sports are hard to not be at least somewhat aware of. That all of the major sports leagues, as well as college and high school programs, have struggled this year due to COVID-19 has consistently been in the news. 

What Is an Achilles Tendon Rupture?

Our Achilles tendon, which is located in the heel, is the largest, as well as the strongest, tendon in the entire body. This is the tendon that connects the heel with the calf muscles and is involved in all movements related to standing or moving around. 

Even though the Achilles tendon has tremendous strength, it is vulnerable to injury. This typically happens when it is stretched too far, which can result in a small or partial tear or it being completely severed or ruptured. With this type of injury comes significant pain and swelling along with the inability to bend or put weight on the foot. 

Achilles tendon injuries are fairly common in basketball and other types of sports where sudden movements and abrupt changes in direction are an integral part of the action. These types of movements are especially common in basketball. In addition, the fact that they are being done on an unforgiving surface makes the potential for such injuries even more likely.

So, where does the silver lining come in? Repairs of Achilles tendon ruptures are actually quite successful, and it goes without saying that professional athletes receive the very best medical care possible. What is also true, however, is that the careers of NBA players do not fare well following ruptures to their Achilles tendons. In fact, according to a study in the American Journal of Sports Medicine, “The NBA players who returned to play after repair of complete Achilles tendon ruptures showed a significant decrease in playing time and performance. Thirty-nine percent of players never returned to play.”

You do not have to be a superstar athlete for an Achilles tendon injury to be serious. The good news is that treatment options are very effective, especially when a diagnosis is made as soon as possible. 

If you have questions about an Achilles tendon injury or about any other foot or ankle concerns, Dr. Christopher Hubbard is a board-certified Orthopedic Surgeon with Ortho-Care Wayne in Bergen County New Jersey and is the former Chief of the Foot and Ankle Service at Mount Sinai Beth Israel in NYC.

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