You may know that Chamique Holdsclaw, one of my former Atlanta Dream players (not to mention one of basketball’s most gifted female athletes), suffered an Achilles tendon injury this year. While this injury is common with basketball players, it is most prevalent in men ages 35-45. They’re often the “weekend warrior” types—so the injury is more likely to happen when they overdo it, and when they don’t have a good stretching regimen.
There are two basic variations of Achilles injuries: a bad sprain, and a complete tear. It’s important to know whether the Achilles is torn or not, because the treatment is very different: a torn Achilles means surgery; a strained Achilles means rehab and rest. Some people with Achilles tears are misdiagnosed with sprains, only to find out later that they have Achilles tears and they’ve missed the window to have it fixed. (An Achilles tear should be repaired within four weeks of tearing it.)
Here’s the difference between an Achilles strain and a tear: a strain is a gradual onset of pain that tends to get worse with more activity. An Achilles tear is a sudden injury, and it feels as if you were hit in the back of the ankle—the tendon actually pops and tears in a sudden fashion. Most people who have this tear will actually say, “Somebody must have kicked me me because I felt it in the back of my heel/ankle.”
If you’ve suffered an injury like this, it’s important for you to see a sports medicine doctor immediately. You can also take our Ankle Quiz.
If you’re healthy and uninjured, be sure to do everything you can to keep it that way. Here’s are some tips to prevent Achilles injuries:
- Exercise regularly; in other words, don’t jump into a game of full-court basketball after not working out for a year.
- Wear shoes with a lot of support.
- Warm up and stretch for 15 minutes before playing.
- Stretch and stay warm during breaks in the action.
Do you have any questions about the prevention or treatment of Achilles tendon injuries? If so, be sure to let me know in the comments section.
About Brandon Mines, MD:
Dr. Mines has been practicing with Emory since 2005 and specializes in family practice and sports medicine. His areas of clinical interest include ankle, shoulder, hand, knee, sports injuries, upper extremities, and wrist. Dr. Mines holds organizational leadership memberships at the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Medical Society of Sports Medicine.