In April 2013, Duke football quarterback Thomas Sirk ruptured his right achilles tendon at the very young age of 19. Now comes news that he has ruptured his left achilles tendon at the age of 22. It is quite unusual for people to rupture their achilles tendons before the age of 30.
In fact most everyday people seem to get the injury after the age of 35. Professional athletes who suffer from this injury typically do so a bit sooner, usually anywhere from their late 20s to their late 30s.
So the case of Thomas Sirk is very unusual, especially since he got unlucky twice. Similar to the case of Terell Suggs, although at a much earlier age.
In any event, Mr. Sirk’s surgery seem to have gone well per his Tweet from a few days ago:
University of Delaware researcher and assistant professor Karin Silbernagel has been given two grants to explore the recovery process after achilles tendon ruptures. The first grant is from the Foundation for Physical Therapy and the second on is from the Delaware Biotechnology Institute. Her research team is presently recruiting participants for an observational study on tendon rupture or damage recovery. Silbernagel is hoping to figure out the answer to two key question:
- Why is there such a large variation in final recovery outcomes?
- What differs between patients who do really well and those who do not do so well?
In Silbernagel’s upcoming study, participants will receive Fitbits to measure their activity levels during the early post-rupture crucial months for recovery. Since protecting the rupture site is so important, the researchers will look at the mechanical properties of the tendon through elastography, which maps the elastic properties of soft tissue. During this procedure, the tendon is vibrated and then studied through ultrasound.
Silbernagel’s work will heavily focus on the first 8 to 12 weeks after an achilles injury, the crucial period for tendon healing. In her own words:
“If we can identify which changes in mechanical properties is an indication of who does well or not, then we don’t have to wait six months to a year [post-injury] to do studies anymore. If the activity level has anything to do with it, then we as physical therapists could be a lot more proactive early on.”
Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson ruptured his achilles tendon last year at the age of 32. This year, he is back and is having his best season ever at the age of 33. This is quite rare in the NFL or for that matter any sport.
The Kansas City Star has a great article on Johnson’s recovery from his achilles tendon rupture and his excellent season.