Greek mythology tells the story of Achilles, whose mother attempted to protect him from all physical harm and make him immortal by dipping him in the river Styx when he was a baby. He was left vulnerable in one spot, the heel that his mother held him by while dipping him in the river. It would prove to be his demise as he suffered a mortal wound to his heel.
The Achilles tendon bears that same level of vulnerability. While many athletes may stretch and perform other conditioning exercises to prevent injury, the Achilles' tendon can sustain damage in many unexpected ways. From being kicked, to sudden strain, to improper athletic footwear and high intensity athletic activity after a period of sustained inactivity, Achilles tendon injuries can occur.
For athletes here in Chicago that may be participating in races along the lakefront parks or the myriad of intramural sports leagues including touch football and indoor soccer, achillestendon.com offers tips and guidance on how to prevent injury to this sensitive area of the body.
Stretching - Calf stretches and conditioning to strengthen the calf muscles and the tendon are recommended. Twenty minutes a day is recommended along with strength training and stretching for other muscles including the hips and quadriceps since tightness in these muscles can add extra tension on the calf muscles.
Proper footwear - Depending upon the sport, there are recommendations for how often footwear should be replaced. Adherence to those recommendations is important for preventing injuries. It may be helpful to consult an orthopedist to discuss the use of orthotics and proper fit of such inserts to reduce foot, knee and Achilles' tendon strains or tears.
Alternative exercise/ Relative Rest - Balancing out athletic activity to incorporate exercises that reduce the pressure and stress placed upon the foot including swimming and moderate cycling is a good for reducing the risk of injury.
While gearing up for the new year and amping up an exercise regimen, take care of the tender tendon.