A recent article from Canada about B.C. Lions’ linebacker Solomon Elimimian’s achilles tendon rupture has some interesting positive comments about non-surgical conservative repair of achilles tendon ruptures. Although Elimimian is opting for the surgical route, the article states that the B.C. Lions’ receivers coach Khari Jones suffered the same injury several weeks ago while skipping rope, and decided to go the non-surgical route.
The article also mentions fellow Canadian footballer Brady Browne and his successful non-surgical treatment, as shown in his extensive video documentation. Interestingly, the article has the following stats:
Either way, in most cases, there’s not much difference between operative and non-operative. It’s just a percentage kind of thing — 93 per cent versus 98 per cent. Lots of people go non-operative now.
I had never read such a statistic before, but it makes sense. They are basically saying that surgery leads to an athlete getting back to 98 percent of pre-injury strength and flexibility levels, while non-surgical treatment leads to a 93 percent return to fitness. Great to hear that lots of people are now choosing non-operative treatment of achilles tendon ruptures.
Dr. Kevin Stone is a well respected orthopedic surgeon and on this site’s protocols for achilles tendon rupture rehabilitation page, I include one protocol that I found on his website. A few days ago, Dr. Stone published an informative article on achilles tendon ruptures in the Huffington Post. Some key items of interest:
- According to one study, women have more elastic achilles tendons compared to men. This may be one reason behind women’s reduced rates of achilles tendon tears in comparison to men.
- Surgical repair is “almost always” recommended in the US, while non-operative healing is more common in other countries. This has been common knowledge for a while, but I think more and more surgeons in the US are also recommending non-surgical to at least a small minority of their patients.
- Dr. Stone recommends percutaneous repair of the ruptured achilles tendon .
- The post-operative recovery program “has become more aggressive over time, with earlier range-of-motion and weight-bearing exercises than ever before.”
- I found it interesting that the healing process is nowadays “augmented by injections of growth factors and/or stem cells, both at the time of surgery and during the recovery program.”
Last week, the Mavs Moneyball blog that focuses on the Dallas Mavericks basketball team had an excellent article on achilles tendon ruptures and how to treat them. Not surprisingly, they focused on achilles tendon injuries to NBA players. They interviewed Dr. Kevin Stone, a renowned orthopedic surgeon.
Some interesting facts:
- Between 1992 and 2012, 18 NBA players suffered from an achilles tendon rupture. However, many teams do not have good data on specific injuries, especially when it concerns second string players who never return the following season. Dr. Stone thinks that many more NBA players likely suffered from achilles tendon ruptures between 1992 and 2012 than was officially reported.
- 7 of the 18 NBA players that ruptured their achilles tendons in the time period covered never returned to the sport. However, some were in their 30s so probably on the way out anyway. So all in all, it is quite encouraging that most NBA players who are in their 20s and who rupture their achilles tendons still return to the sport. Even older athletes such as Kobe Bryant have returned to the NBA after surgical repair of their ruptured achilles tendons.
- Achilles tendon ruptures are a lot more difficult to recover from then are ACL tears. In fact athletes can even continue to play their respective sport without an ACL!
- Better ways to stimulate healing of and rebuilding of strength of achilles tendons are being studied, including the use of growth factors, stem cells and some anabolic agents. No solid evidence in support of these treatments as yet.