The Achilles tendon is a large, strong fibrous cord that connects the calf muscles in the back of the leg to the back of the heel bone (calcaneus).
The Achilles tendon and the calf muscles work together to allow individuals to point the foot downward and to raise the heel upward. People rely on it virtually every time they move their foot. This motion enables individuals to walk, jump, stand on their toes, and climb stairs. Individuals with Achilles tendon ruptures will most often not be able to perform such movements. Achilles tendon ruptures most commonly occur in men between the ages of 30 and 50 years old that participate in sports. Sports such as basketball, football, and tennis require quick forward and backward leg movements, jumping, and cutting that can create an imbalance of pressure on the leg and foot. The Achilles tendon can rupture when the flexed foot sustains a sudden strong force and the calf muscles powerfully shorten. Achilles tendon rupture can also result from tendons weakened over time by Achilles tendonitis (chronic inflammation of the tendon). A loud “pop” may be heard when the Achilles tendon ruptures. Most individuals feel a sudden painful “snap” in the back of the calf or lower leg followed by sharp severe pain. Swelling and skin discoloration in the back of the calf will often develop because of bleeding beneath the skin. Individuals are unable to point their feet downward or raise their heels upward making it difficult to walk, jump, stand on their toes, and climb stairs.
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