Armstrong Podiatry & Sports Health's Blog

Information that promotes wellness

NFL and Achilles tendon injuries

As an outsider looking in, I have noticed an inordinate number of Achilles tendon injuries at NFL camps (nine the last time I looked) this year.  As many try to explain them away as not related to the lockout, I would contend it is precisely due to the lockout that these injuries are occurring.

The Achilles tendon is the longest and thickest tendon in your body.  It is made up of two muscles, the gastrocnemius (which is more easily seen and referred to some as the “calf muscle” with its two heads) and the soleus muscle (which is deeper in the body and makes up most of the tendon).  They join together to form the Achilles tendon and occupies the bottom quarter of the leg. It inserts at the back of the heel bone (calcaneus).  This anatomy makes the tendon a powerful force during accelerations, sudden stops and sprinting activity.

Jumping to Achilles tendon readiness

Massaging the tendon after intense activity


Even though the Achilles tendon is not a muscle, studies have shown that it has contractile properties, so it should be treated as such.  Sensible, progressive training principles should be done to help strengthen the Achilles tendon and give it adequate viscoelasticity.  Typical training methods, such as resistance exercises, plyometric training and sprint training all provide strength to the tendon, and recovery activities, such as stretching and massage therapy, provide pliability to the tendon (so it will be useful for the next training session).  These methods such be put into place for months before full game day activity is attempted.

Struggling to get into game shape with limited training time is certainly a dilemma.  If someone asked me (and no one will!) how I would solve this, I would tell them to do less volume daily, but increase the restorative activities.  This will do two things, allow the athletes to do more intense work on a more regular basis, because they are recovered fully and also give the athletes a fitness base with the restorative activities such as circuit training or stationary biking.  Then, like any fitness program, slowly increase the volume of intense work as the weeks progress.  As a podiatrist, I would add two measures in regards to the Achilles tendon:  add in some eccentric heel drops, made famous by Alfredson;  and of course, to wear some shoes with no heel lift, i.e., Altra,  during the day (not during exercise) to provide increased Achilles tendon activity.

Always back to shoegear!

Hopefully all the players get into game shape and are able to play the beloved sport of football! Please contact me if you have any questions.

Health and happiness!

August 10, 2011 - Posted by | Foot and ankle injuries, Resistance training | , , , , ,

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