Sports Injuries

Updated 29 March 2016

Partial or total rupture of Achilles tendon

Players often feel as though someone has kicked them from behind with this type of injury. This is a typical symptom of a complete or partial rupture of the Achilles tendon.

What is partial or total rupture of Achilles tendon?

Players often feel as though someone has kicked them from behind and may be puzzled when they don't see anyone behind them. This is a typical symptom of a complete or partial rupture of the Achilles tendon.

A partial rupture of the Achilles tendon causes the tendon to tear, but not completely. Scar tissue will form which is likely to lead to inflammation of the tendon. Often the player will not feel the rupture at the time but will become aware of it later when the tendon has cooled down.

A total Achilles tendon rupture is one of the worst sports injuries, but it is possible to recover from it.

Symptoms of partial rupture

  • A sudden sharp pain in the Achilles tendon
  • Pain that appears when muscles cool down
  • Sharp pain which disappears when warmed - returns when exercise stops
  • Tendon stiff in the morning
  • Swelling in the tendon

What can you do?

  • Apply RICE for the first three days: rest - slows down bleeding and reduces the risk of further damage; Ice - eases pain, reduces swelling, reduces bleeding initially; compression - reduces bleeding and swelling; elevation - reduces bleeding and swelling by allowing fluids to flow away from the site of injury.
  • Use crutches.
  • See a sports injury specialist or doctor.

Symptoms of a total rupture are:

  • A sudden sharp pain as if kicked in the back of the leg
  • Hear a loud crack or bang
  • Unable to walk properly
  • Unable to stand on tiptoe
  • Feel a gap in the tendon.
  • Swelling

What can you do?

  • Get to a doctor or hospital as soon as possible. The sooner you get this injury operated on the more chance you have of making a full recovery.
  • Apply ice

Read more:

Sprains and strains

Bone fractures

Exercise to heal Achilles ankle injury


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Sports Injuries Expert

Adrian Rotunno is a medical doctor in the Sports & Exercise Medicine fellowship at the Sports Science Institute of South Africa, and qualified physiotherapist. Team physician for Dimension Data pro-cycling, and Boland Rugby. Special interests include endurance sport, in particular cycling, as well as contact sports.

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