Preventing Achilles Injuries

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Each year, about 230,000 Achilles tendon injuries happen in the U.S., and that number keeps going up. Now, doctors are looking for ways to prevent these common injuries. (KFSN)

Each year, about 230,000 Achilles tendon injuries happen in the U.S., and that number keeps going up. Now, doctors are looking for ways to prevent these common injuries.

Since she was six, gymnast Nia Dennis has had one dream.

"My goal is to make the Olympic team," Dennis shared.

But that goal was cut short after a training session last year.

Dennis explained to Ivanhoe, "I knew something was off when I was starting to run my tumbling pass, and I felt a pop, and my whole calf got tingly and cold."

Dennis ruptured her Achilles, the tendon that connects the calf muscle to the heel bone. Doctors at Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush have seen a 300 percent increase in these types of injuries over a ten-year span. though common in young athletes, the fastest growing patients are active and between ages 30 and 50.

George B. Holmes, Jr., MD, a foot and ankle orthopedic surgeon in Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush confessed, "I think we're seeing more of the middle aged and older patients because they are staying active longer."

"There are a lot more of these tough Mudder, Spartan like races, that's really uneven ground and territory," said Simon Lee, MD, foot and ankle orthopedic surgeon in Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush.

But you may be able to prevent an Achilles injury. First, wear the right shoes. If your soles have uneven wear marks, toss them. Try using an ankle brace for support during risky activities, like a mud run. Also, perform strength and balance exercises such as standing on one leg for 30 seconds or one-leg mini squats. Ten reps to the front, side, and back, repeated three times on each leg. And, stretch before and after physical activity.

Dr. Lee expressed, "The tires are the only thing that touches the road in a car, so they always tell you to have really good tires, so similarly the feet and the ankles are the first thing that hit the ground for everyone."

Dennis had surgery and she is already back competing in level ten gymnastics.

To help stop ankle injuries from occurring, physicians of Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush collaborated with athletic trainers in the Midwest to launch Ankles for Life, a public awareness program that provides athletes of all ages the tools to incorporate ankle injury prevention tactics into their workout and warm-up routines. These exercises can be found at www.anklesforlife.org in a downloadable brochure. The website also includes information on how to order complimentary gym tags with ankle injury prevention tips.
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