Will I be able to run after a ruptured Achilles tendon? Well, that’s what we’re talking about today on the Doc On The Run Podcast.
Now, if you have trouble with your Achilles tendon and some doctor told you that you might actually tear it completely or rupture it if you continue to run, you are probably really worried about that. So if you are worried about that, I’ve got a couple of things for you. I’ve got a little bit of good news and a little bit of bad news because somebody asked me recently, if I rupture my Achilles tendon, if I just ignore the tendinosis, if I just block out the pain, continue to run, continue to train, and then it does rupture, would I be able to run after that rupture heals? Well, I’ll tell you what I think if it was me.
So I am actually very leery of Achilles tendon injuries in myself because I see them in runners and I see how much trouble they cause. So if my Achilles tendon actually ruptured for some reason, and I was thinking about, okay, what if that happened to me? Would I actually run again? Well, I like to run, so I’d probably figure out a way to do that. So the short answer is that, yes, I think if I ruptured my Achilles tendon, I do think I would be able to run after I recovered from the rupture and the rupture in the tendon actually completely healed. Now, when we say completely healed, we mean it as one continuous sort of big thing of collagen, it’s actually attached, it’s still functional, but it is never going to be the same. So that’s part of the bad news.
Do not be confused about this. The real bad news is that I believe that if I ruptured my Achilles tendon, irrespective of whether I had surgery to fix it or whether I let it heal without surgery, with what we as physicians call conservative treatment, meaning we don’t operate on it, we just put you in a cast or a boot or do anything that’s not surgery, well, I think that I would run slower permanently. I do not think I would ever be as fast again. I think that I would definitely be a slower runner, although I would probably still run.
Also, the sort of idea of like, would I be able to run as fast as I do now if I had a rupture and it healed, whether or not I had surgery, I don’t think would actually make it possible for me to run just as fast later. In fact, there’s a plus and a minus with both, which is why so many doctors still debate about which is better for you as an athlete. In fact, we talk about this at length with Dr. Schroeder in the Achilles master class that we created when I did a whole weekend long conference on running injuries and how to deal with them, with all these experts that I know, and Dr. Schroeder’s, one of those experts. You can actually watch a replay of that if you go to docontherun.com/achillesmasterclass. But you’ll see in that presentation, that sits around an hour or so, but there is still a debate between surgery versus non-surgery when you rupture or tear your Achilles tendon, that’s not the problem.
The problem is that whether you have surgery or whether you have a fractured walking boot or a special Achilles tendon boot, it’s the recovery that’s going to kill your ability to run. You cannot move it and heal it at the same time. When you have prolonged immobilization either in a cast or a fracture walking boot, or because you had surgery, you will get permanent atrophy, you get weakness, you get stiffness, you get loss of neuromuscular connections, your running form kind of degenerates, you lose aerobic fitness of course. You have all these things that conspire against you to actually make it extremely difficult for you to maintain your fitness.
Now, the average time or age of someone who ruptures their Achilles tendon is I think about 53 years old. I actually can’t remember for sure. But if you look it up, it’s either like 53 or 57. So there’s people in their fifties. So people in their 30s, 40s, and 50s are most likely to rupture their Achilles tendon when they’re athletic. And that’s a real problem. If you’re in your 20s you might be able to rupture it and then get back to running and maybe able to run faster later. But the older you get, whether it’s your 30s or your 40s or 50s, it’s always more difficult to come back and get back to your same level of athleticism after you’ve had that sort of injury.
So what do you do? Well, don’t get an Achilles tendon rupture. If you have pain in your Achilles tendon, do not ignore it. This is really serious. You cannot ignore it. You cannot just let it go. If you ignore it will almost certainly turn into tendinosis if it hasn’t already. And when you get tendinosis, you’re more prone to have it rupturing later, and you do not want to do that. So you’ve got to take action. See somebody who’s an expert on running injuries or Achilles tendons, make sure you get a second opinion if you’re not getting better. But do something, take action and make sure you’re improving.
Now, I’m going to be doing a live masterclass on Achilles tendon injuries, and if you go to docontherun.com/achillesmasterclass, you can sign up for that there. You can also see the presentation I was talking about with Dr. Schroeder where we discussed all of this. And these things can really help you understand all of the stuff that goes into Achilles tendon pathology or disease or propensity for injury when you’re a runner and you want to make sure that it’s not going to disrupt your ability to run forever. So go to docontherun.com/achillesmasterclass you can check it out, and I’ll see in the training.