The achilles tendon is the cord-like tissue on the back of the lower leg just above the heel. It connects the calf muscles (gastrocnemius & soleus) to the heel bone (calcaneus) and it is one of the thickest and strongest tendons in the body. The first step in a successful recovery approach is early detection. Educating athletes on signs and symptoms can help runners with early detection of an achilles injury. The initial phase of an achilles injury is tightness in the achilles area in the morning. Some mild swelling may be present on either side of the achilles and it may be tender to squeeze or pinch the achilles. Eventually, the tightness progresses to discomfort at the beginning of runs, and "loosens up" during the run. Finally the discomfort is present during the entire run and may force the runner to stop. Recovery can be expedited if an achilles injury is identified early on. Therefore it is paramount to educate your athletes on the early stages of achilles injury to prevent further damage.
Eccentric (muscle lengthening) loading has proven to be an effective approach for recovery of an achilles injury. The Alfredson Model stresses the importance of eccentric training as part of rehabilitation for tendon injuries. According to The American Journal of Sports Medicine, heel-raising training program have not proved nearly as effective as heel-drop (eccentric) programs. See the video below for an example of the Alfredson (eccentric) Model. Eccentric loading is only one part of the achilles recovery puzzle. Next week we will introduce some strength techniques to help with recovery and prevention.
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