Fans of the NBA may remember Kevin Durant torching the Toronto Raptors in game 5 of the 2019 NBA Finals when out of nowhere he hit the floor. He’d ruptured his Achilles tendon and would go on to miss the rest of the finals and the entire 2020 season.
Perhaps surprisingly, record numbers of Americans are injuring their Achilles this year. A recent report from doctors at Michigan Medicine-University Michigan says they have diagnosed more Achilles ruptures in June of this year than they did in all of 2020.
The reason? People are getting back outside after a long and inactive pandemic, and their bodies are not ready.
Soft tissue doesn’t respond as quickly to exercise as muscle and bone and can have a harder time adapting to increased demands. Although the Achilles is the strongest and thickest tendon in your body, it needs to be eased back into activity.
In case you’re wondering, your Achilles tendon runs down the back of your leg, right down to your foot. It takes a lot of abuse and is under stress whenever you’re moving.
For those of you who haven’t been moving a heck of a lot in the past year or so, your Achilles tendon may not be as ready as the rest of you to get back in shape.
In fact, that’s likely why Mr. Durant injured himself. Before he came back for game 5, he’d missed about a month of play.
Preventing an Achilles injury means taking a measured and incremental approach when returning to exercise. It means knowing your limitations and taking your time.
If you’ve been relatively inactive for the past 15 months, you have no business going out for a long run, playing a high-intensity game of tennis, or lifting heavy weights.
Those things will all come, you’ll just have to take it slow. Take a few weeks to get back into the swing of things by slowly increasing activity duration, frequency, and intensity to allow your body to adapt.
It’s also good to know the various injuries and warning signs to prevent a serious injury like a rupture.
Tendinitis is common in the Achilles and is marked by inflammation. It can lead to some pain, tenderness, and swelling in the ankle, and is usually the result of doing too much too fast.
Tendinosis is more of a degenerative condition that can happen from years of overuse. It is essentially arthritis for tendons.
Lastly is the rupture. It will result in a “pop” feeling in the back of the leg. If you feel this and isn’t necessarily painful, don’t be fooled. Seek treatment.
Avoid being like the millions of Americans injuring their Achilles this summer. Take your time to ease back into exercise to protect your body and encourage sustainability.