Is it true that it can take up to a year to fully recover from an Achilles tendon rupture?
The Achilles tendon rupture is one of the most dreaded injuries in professional sports, especially in the NBA where it has become increasingly more common. Of course, it isn’t only professional athletes who suffer from Achilles tendon injuries, but the extended amount of time required for recovery can be especially detrimental to their careers. Being off the roster for months or even a year is definitely a season-ender, but there is also the uncertainty of just how much of their former speed and agility they will be able to regain.
Treatment Options and Recovery Timeline for Achilles Tendon Rupture
Because it is the largest and strongest tendon in the body, the Achilles tendon is well-suited for all of the demands that we make on it. Unlike muscle tissue, however, tendons do not get the same level of nutrients because the amount of blood flow through them is less. This leads to a longer period for healing. Plus, because the Achilles tendon is so large, there is a lot of it to heal.
There are surgical and nonsurgical options for the treatment of an Achilles tendon rupture. These options will vary depending upon the injury and the expectations of the patient. For those who are older or who have a less active lifestyle, nonsurgical methods will likely be recommended. Athletes who are eager to get back to their sport, as well as younger and more active individuals, will often opt for surgical repair to the tendon and a quicker return to full function and mobility.
While surgery is typically a quicker and more successful route following an Achilles tendon rupture, the recovery period is not short. The surgery itself will take less than an hour and you will be home the same day, with your leg in a cast from just below the knee to your toes. You will likely be sent home with crutches and instructions not to put any weight on your injured leg. After that, while no two recovery periods will be exactly the same, it will be something like this:
- 2 weeks post-surgery – cast and stitches removed, foot placed in a walking cast. Crutches will still be needed and rehab will start.
- 4 weeks post-surgery – cast removed and foot placed in a walking boot with heel wedges. Physical therapy starts at this point with physician-developed rehabilitation protocol.
- 6 to 9 weeks post-surgery – boot wedge adjusted and therapy continues.
- 4 to 6 months post-surgery – wean to sneaker or shoe and continue therapy and home program. Complete recovery can take up to a year.
If you have questions about your Achilles tendon or about any other foot or ankle concerns, Dr. Christopher Hubbard is a board-certified Orthopedic Surgeon with Ortho-Care Wayne in Passaic 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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