Knee injuries are a dime a dozen in the world of athletics. We have countless surgeries and rehabilitation techniques to get players back into action as soon as possible – sometimes even stronger than they were before. For example, star football running back Adrian Peterson returned from a serious knee injury to have his best season as a professional. Though this should always be taken seriously, you can both treat and recover from this type of injury.
On the other hand, an injury to the Achilles tendon tends to be much more difficult to come back from, regardless of whether it belongs to a professional athlete or just your average gym-goer. It seems rather appropriate that it spelled doom for the actual Achilles of Greek mythology, from whom the name is derived. A demigod and an unparalleled warrior, Achilles was undone by one weakness in his heel. Similarly, Kobe Bryant, who is in many ways a professional basketball demigod, suffered a serious Achilles injury and was never able to regain the form that made him great.
Four-time Pro Bowl running back Arian Foster suffered a similar fate, which effectively ended his career at the age of 29. An injury to this tendon can truly knock even the mightiest of superstars off of their mountain perches.
In short, the Achilles tendon is an area of the body that is not to be meddled with. While an injury to the tendon can spell doom for any athletic career, it is completely possible to avoid having a setback like this in the first place. The best way to deal with an Achilles injury is to not have one at all.
Here are a few tips for maintaining a healthy Achilles tendon and preventing an injury.
Stretch It Out
Probably the most common theme for injury prevention and body maintenance is good old-fashioned stretching. This tried-and-true method ensures that the Achilles tendon stays limber, reducing the risk of rupturing or tearing it.
Injuries such as the ones that happened to Arian Foster and Kobe Bryant occurred after the athletes attempted to take off running. The Achilles tendon that ended up being injured in both instances was in the leg trying to plant firmly and push off of the ground, propelling the athlete forward. The sudden stretch of the tendon was so violent in these cases that it caused a tear, knocking them out of the game and essentially out of professional sports.
Stretching this area of the heel and ankle makes it more flexible, which can make it more difficult to injure it. Keeping your Achilles warm and loose is key. Stretching the Achilles tendon is very simple, but can pay enormous dividends in the future. It basically involves various ways to move your foot up towards your shin, as this is the direction that causes the tendon to extend in length.
These stretches should not be done forcefully. Rather, the person should listen to their body in order to ensure that an injury does not occur due to overstretching. These small movements do not require a gym and can largely be performed in the comfort of one’s own home. All that needs to take place is for the foot to flex upward repeatedly, stretching out the tendon and gradually increasing its flexibility.
These stretches will also aid the health of other areas of the leg, namely the calf muscle. The Achilles tendon serves as the connector between the calf and the heel. As such, if either the Achilles or calf muscle is tight, it can cause the other to overcompensate and overextend. Many of these stretches loosen up both of these areas, which can help you avoid any of these disastrous injuries.
There are even more precautions that both athletes and non-athletes can take to protect their Achilles tendons from injury. An Achilles sleeve can protect this area from hyperextension during any sort of physical activity. It utilizes compression with its form-fitting design in order to ensure that the tendon is both fully-functional and safe.
An athlete will not lose any flexibility when this sleeve is on, and its heat-retention quality makes it easier to remain relaxed. It is easy to put on and remove and is versatile enough to fit the right or left foot at any time. Put on the Achilles sleeve at some point throughout your day, and this ever-important tendon can remain both warm and flexible.
Have A Routine
Having a solid routine can be instrumental to maintaining a healthy body. The Achilles tendon is something that does not require hours of treatment each day. Nevertheless, it should be treated in some way periodically, as this could mean the difference between a consistently clean bill of health and a crippling injury that never truly heals.
Wake up each morning and assume the position where you push up against the wall, making sure to keep your back foot firmly on the ground. Hold this position, then alternate to the opposite position, with the other foot now in the back. Repeat this process a few times, stretching out the Achilles and the calf muscles.
It will make you feel much looser and can get this portion of your lower body ready for your day. It doesn’t take an hour, only a few minutes to help ensure that you never experience the eye-watering pain that comes with a serious injury to the tendon.
If you really want to play it safe, throw on your Achilles sleeve at any time. Keep that tendon supported and warm. Kobe Bryant and Arian Foster were world-class athletes that could not fully recover from this type of injury. With proper care and management of the Achilles tendon, you can avoid a similar fate.