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Achilles tendon rupture, an injury that no athlete wants

An Achilles tendon rupture has an approximate recovery time of about six months. It may be preceded by tendonitis, although it’s also common for it to occur without warning in situations that cause intense strain, such as during a sudden start or jump.

Injuries are a part of the game—we must never forget that—but for a professional athlete to be prevented from developing their craft is a hard pill to swallow. It can end up being a real headache.

In a matter of milliseconds, a misstep or a wrong move could bench you for weeks or even months, and in some cases, leave you in need of an operation and many rehabilitation sessions to boot.

Hours and hours invested to achieve optimal recovery and, more importantly, not to relapse.

One of the worst injuries an athlete can face is a rupture of the Achilles tendon, a strong fibrous cord that connects the muscles at the back of the calf with the heel bone, near the ankle.

If the tendon is stretched excessively or too harshly, it can tear completely or partially. The latter is what happened to padel player Delfina Brea, who had to withdraw from the quarterfinals of the World Padel Tour Marbella Master due to “a small tear in her Achilles tendon”, as she herself posted on her Instagram account. However, more commonly, this type of tear is complete or almost complete.

Degeneration of collagen fibers

But why does this happen? Jon Ibáñez, padel player and physiotherapist at the Padel&Gol centre in Santurtzi (Bizkaia, Spain), explains that tendon rupture, in some cases, may be preceded by tendonitis.

“There’s a degeneration of the collagen fibers that make up the tendon. This degeneration causes a loss of elasticity and other characteristics that, in turn, weaken the tendon and can occasionally cause the Achilles to rupture.”

The physiotherapist, who was the organiser of the medical service for the 2020 Spanish Team Championship, believes that this occurs due to “too much sport and, in part, due to the lack of physical conditioning specific to padel.” Even if Achilles tendon ruptures are not common in padel, Ibáñez recognises that cases of tendonitis occur more frequently in this tendon.

 Although not always the case, for many people who have experienced an Achilles tendon tear, it happened in a matter of seconds, without any warning. The athlete feels a pop, like being kicked, just below the calf. This tear may require surgery to recover, although it isn’t mandatory, since in some cases, rehab without surgery may be possible.

Not a common tear in padel

 Can I rupture my Achilles playing padel? The answer is yes, though it’s not very common. This sport requires movements that load this area of the body more, mainly explosive displacements and jumps. “In padel, players are constantly making sudden starts, stops, jumps… These movements are repeated over and over again,” stresses the physiotherapist.

One of the things that Ibáñez assesses in his consultation when a player is being treated for Achilles tendonitis is “the load that this ligament supports. If tendonitis is present, it means that the tendon isn’t tolerating the load placed upon it, so we have to determine the stage of the tendinopathy, analysing whether the tendon is inflamed at that moment and trying out therapeutic exercise. It’s important to go slowly, promoting strengthening with a program of controlled loads.”

The type of playing surface is key

Another aspect that must be taken into account when practising padel is the surface on which it’s played, as this factor greatly influences the possible injuries of the players.

“When I treat a patient with Achilles tendonitis, the first thing I want to know is what material they play padel on. This is very important to know in order to prevent injuries. If you’re playing on a court that has a lot of sand, it is recommended to use shoes with a herringbone pattern in the sole so you can glide better on the court. However, if you’re playing on courts with little sand, you should opt for shoes that have pivot points so that the foot can rotate more easily,” he explains.

After the Achilles tendon ruptures, the injury will be complex and will take a long time to heal. Ibáñez believes that “by following the physiotherapist’s instructions, with time and dedication, this injury will gradually get better.”

He places the recovery period for this injury between four and six months, although he clarifies that this time will be longer if the athlete wants to be sure to be competitive again.

Remember that one of the most important things when it comes to an injury is “to not go crazy when it’s time to start playing on a court again. Each injury has its own recovery time and that must be respected.”

To prevent Achilles tendon injuries, Ibáñez has a clear answer: good physical conditioning. “We can’t compare the padel we see today on the World Padel Tour with the padel we saw 10 years ago. Now it’s very physical. We can see players between 16 and 17 years old in the qualifying matches of the tournament who are physically athletes⁠—marvels of physical fitness⁠— and that’s not to mention the first ten pairs on the circuit.”

Padel has become a very demanding sport, in which we push our bodies to the limit of their physical capabilities. “If we are not physically fit, we can’t handle calf and soleus muscle tears or Achilles

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