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.
Tags: exercise safety