Misty May-Treanor ruptures Achilles tendon dancing with the stars. What is that?

Copyright 2008 ABC Studios/Kelsey McNeal

by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H.

While practicing for the TV series Dancing with the Stars, Misty May-Treanor ruptured her Achilles tendon.  “It felt like I was hit in the back with a baseball bat,” she said.  I’ve heard that before. Sometimes people hear a pop also.

If you play competitive weekend warrior sports you will know someone with this injury sooner or later.  But Misty May?  An elite athlete in prime condition, who tests her Achilles daily with jumps and sudden starts?  She tears it dancing?  Why?

My best guess was that it was the high heels. Since she usually is barefoot in the sand, her calf and Achilles were not used to stress in that position.  I wonder had she warmed up?  Probably, but I’ll bet she was not thinking of injury like she would have been in volleyball competition.

The Achilles tendon attaches your heel to your calf muscle.  When your calf muscle flexes, your heel raises and your toes lower.  You use this muscle and tendon to walk, run, jump, stand on your toes, etc.

I usually see the injury in people 30 and older who have been playing basketball, softball, etc. They take off on a surge from standing still, and it pops.  Excruciating pain follows.  Surgery, casting and physical therapy give good results.  Sometimes, a partial tear heals with just a splint.  With Treanor’s commitment to rehab, she will be back on the volleyball court in several months if she wants to.  You may not be so lucky and probably need to migrate to less competitive sports anyway.

You can decrease your risk of this painful injury by staying in good shape and warming up before competition.  Wear good shoes.   Weekend warriors should attenuate those competitive urges.  Start slow, warm up and none of those sudden runs or jumps.  Better yet, get into regular walking, running, swimming (curling?).  Regular moderate exercise is the real Fountain of Youth. Doing nothing, or too much too fast, can be just the opposite.

Has anyone experienced an Achilles tendon rupture?  Painful?

Top right photo of Misty Mae-Treanor on Dancing With the Stars October 6, 2008: Copyright 2008 ABC Studios/Kelsey McNeal.

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8 Responses to “Misty May-Treanor ruptures Achilles tendon dancing with the stars. What is that?”

  1. Steve Parker, M.D. Says:

    You are so right about exercise being the real Fountain of Youth. Even middle-aged folks who start a moderate exercise program can reduce their “functional age” by 10-20 years. By that, I mean a 65 year old would have the vigor and stamina of a 55 year old.

  2. James Hubbard Says:

    Thanks, Dr Parker. I agree. You usually can even see it externally.

  3. Pamela Reinsel Cotter Says:

    The high heels — that probably is it! That’s a great deduction. I’m one of those women who torture themselves with heels several times a week, and my calves are pretty strong. BTW — Thanks for commenting on my post, too.

  4. James Hubbard Says:

    Thanks Pamela,

    I enjoyed your post on the same subject. If anyone wants more info on prevention of this injury go to Pamela’s post http://www.beloblog.com/ProJo_Blogs/fitness/2008/10/feeling-for-mis.html

  5. Chuck Marshall Says:

    Considering that Misty May-Treanor is a trained athlete in prime physical condition, I wonder if her surprise rupture could possibly be related to any recent antibiotics treatment she’s been on? There’s a lot of controversy around the antibiotics connection to abnormally high rates of acute tendonitis and ruptures of the Achilles tendon.

    I ruptured my right Achilles tendon 6 months ago and it’s a very slow, tedious recovery process. I was on crutches for almost 2 months, all a very humbling experience for someone used to being very active, mobile and independent (I couldn’t even drive myself to my doctor appointments). My surgeon said you never recover 100%…90-95% is about as good as it gets and there is a 5% risk of a re-rupture to always be mindful of as well; it’s rare but it can happen. I wish the best for Misty as she has a lot of work ahead of her on the road to recovery. I know what she’s in for…

  6. James Hubbard Says:

    That’s an excellent point, Chuck. I failed to mention that the flouroquinolone class of antibiotics (Cipro, Levaquine, Avalox, etc.) can weaken tendons leading to ruptures. I even blogged about it http://www.familydoctormag.com/blog/2008/07/some-antibiotics-may-increase-your-risk-of-tendon-rupture/

  7. Cate Says:

    I saw a video of the injury, and she was actually wearing tennis shoes at the time. She made a joke that she had been doing a lot of the dancing with heels on, but ironically the injury happened when she was in flat shoes. This actually makes sense though – the tendon is under more tension in flat shoes than in heels. Also – she’s accustomed to the soft sand surface when she’s playing volleyball – the hard surfaced dance floor would create more resistance than she’s used to when forcefully pushing off.

    I’ve given this some thought because I’m currently about 10 weeks post-rupture and repair myself (weekend warrior – tennis variety), and returning to walking has been much easier in shoes with an inch or so of heel than in bare feet or flats. Things are getting better every week, but it’ll be a while before I’m close to normal.

  8. James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H. Says:

    Thanks Cate,

    There goes my “heels” theory.

    Good luck on your recuperation. It does take time.

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