Achilles tendon strains can be very painful and require significant healing time. An injury to this tendon can be debilitating because of its involvement in walking and even balance during weight bearing. Explosive activities that involve pushing against resistance such as rugby and weight training, contribute greatly to this injury.
The strain can be graded on scale from 1 to 3:
Grade 1 strain: Stretching or minor tear of less than 25% of tendon.
Grade 2 strain: 25-75% tearing of the tendon fibres.
Grade 3 strain 75-100% rupture of the tendon fibres.
Cause of injury
Abrupt, forceful contraction of the calf muscles, especially when the muscle and tendon are either cold or inflexible. Signs and symptoms
Pain in the Achilles tendon, from mild discomfort in grade 1 strains to severe, debilitating pain in grade 3 strains. Swelling and tenderness. Pain when rising on the toes. Inability to bend the ankle. Stiffness in the calf and heel area after resting.
Complications if left unattended
A minor tear may become a complete rupture if left unattended. Bursitis and tendinitis may develop from the inflamed tendon rubbing over the heel.
RICER. Anti-inflammatory medication. Then heat and massage to promote blood flow and healing. Immobilization and medical help for grade 3 strains.
Rehabilitation and prevention
Rest is important and a gradual return to activity must be undertaken. Stretching and strengthening the calf muscles is important to rehabilitation and to prevent recurrence. Warming-up the calf muscles properly before all activities, especially those involving forceful contractions such as sprinting, is essential to prevent strains.
Due to the lower blood supply in tendons, they take longer to heal than the muscle, but with rest and rehabilitation the Achilles tendon can return to normal function. Severe ruptures usually require surgical repair.