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Achilles tendon injuries

Järvinen, Tero A.H. MD*†; Kannus, Pekka MD*†; Paavola, Mika MD*†; Järvinen, Teppo L. N. MD*†; Józsa, László MD†§; Järvinen, Markku MD*†

Current Opinion in Rheumatology: March 2001 - Volume 13 - Issue 2 - p 150-155
Nonarticular rheumatism, sports-related injuries, and related conditions

The Achilles tendon is the strongest tendon in the human body. Because most Achilles tendon injuries take place in sports and there has been an common upsurge in sporting activities, the number and incidence of the Achilles tendon overuse injuries and complete ruptures have increased in the industrialized countries during the last decades. The most common clinical diagnosis of Achilles overuse injuries is tendinopathy, which is characterized by a combination of pain and swelling in the Achilles tendon accompanied by impaired ability to perform strenuous activities. Most patients with Achilles tendon injury respond favorably to conservative treatment and only those who fail to respond to carefully followed nonoperative treatment should undergo surgery for repair. A complete rupture of the Achilles tendon usually occurs in sports that require jumping, running, and quick turns. Although histopathologic studies have shown that ruptured Achilles tendons include clear degenerative changes before the rupture, many of the Achilles tendon ruptures occur suddenly without any preceding signs or symptoms. Neither conservative nor operative treatment is a treatment of choice for the ruptured Achilles tendon. It is generally accepted that surgery should be performed on ruptured Achilles tendons in young, physically active patients and in those patients for whom the diagnosis or the treatment of the rupture has been delayed, whereas the results of conservative treatment are an acceptable outcome in older patients with sedentary lifestyles. Many important issues still remain unanswered concerning the cause, pathogenesis, diagnosis, and management of the Achilles tendon disorders. Only when these issues have been solved by well-controlled studies can tailored treatment protocols be created.

*Institute of Medical Technology and Medical School, University of Tampere, Tampere, Finland; †Department of Surgery, Tampere University Hospital, Tampere, Finland; †Accident & Trauma Research Center, UKK-Institute and Tampere Research Center of Sports Medicine, Tampere; Finland; §Department of Morphology, National Institute of Traumatology, Budapest, Hungary.

Correspondence to Markku Järvinen, MD, PhD, Department of Surgery, Tampere University Hospital, P.O. Box 2000, FIN–33520 Tampere, Finland; e-mail: llmaja@uta.fi

© 2001 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.