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.”