British soccer star and frequent tabloid subject, David Beckham, tore his Achilles tendon in a game in Italy this weekend. The footballer will miss all of the World Cup and probably most of the MLS season due to the injury. Becks, as the British press is so fond of calling him, injured the foot in a non-contact aspect of the game. He was just walking around the field when he fell and clutched his heel.
The Achilles tendon is so named after the Greek mythological character who was only vulnerable at the back of his heel. According to the legend, Achilles was dipped in a river by his mother and protected from all harm. Of course his mother had to hold onto some part of young Achilles and allegedly she held him by his heel. Not to spoil the story for you but Achilles is killed by an arrow that hits him right in his heel. What are the chances?
Myth aside, the Achilles tendon has been the downfall of many a great athletic hero. Dan Marino, one of the greatest quarterbacks in football history, had his career ended in a similar non-contact injury. Misty May-Trainor, an Olympic gold medalist in beach volley ball, suffered an Achilles rupture during her time on a television dancing show. What is going on here? These are elite athletes and they are sustaining this major injury while doing basically minimal activity. How is this possible?
The most likely cause is chronic Achilles tendinitis. The Achilles tendon is the biggest, thickest tendon of the body and it allows the calf muscles to point the foot down. This is critical for both running and jumping. Elite athletes and weekend warriors can get a sharp, painful feeling in the back of the heel, especially when getting out of bed in the morning or first getting out of a chair. This pain represents inflammation and tightness at the attachment site of the tendon and the heel bone. If left untreated this tendinitis can weaken the tendon and lead to a rupture.
If you don't want to be added to the list of people with a ruptured Achilles tendon always stretch before you begin strenuous physical activity and see a foot doctor sooner rather than later if you have sharp pain in the back of your heel.
Committed to your health,
Dr. Craig Conti
Sarasota Foot Care Center