How Often Are Achilles Tears Career-Ending Injuries For Athletes?

How Often Are Achilles Tears Career-Ending Injuries For Athletes?

The Achilles tendon is the largest tendon in the body. It provides immense function and stability to your foot, and a tendon rupture can severely impact a person’s quickness, speed, jumping ability and overall athleticism, even when surgery and rehab goes as expected. For that reason, an Achilles tear is one of the most common career-ending injuries for professional athletes. But just how often does an Achilles tear spell the end of a professional athlete’s career? A recent study sought to determine that answer, and we explore their results in today’s blog.

Achilles Tendon Tears In Professional Athletes
Six orthopaedic researchers recently set out to see just how often Achilles tendon injuries are career-ending injuries for professional athletes. To do this, they conducted a review of 15 studies that examined return-to-play outcomes for professional athletes in the NFL, NBA, MLB and professional soccer leagues. After reviewing all the data, researchers found that professional athletes who suffered an Achilles tendon tear were unable to return to sport participation 24 percent of the time.

Perhaps more interestingly, of those who were able to return, the average time to return to sport was 11 months and their efficiency ratings and statistics declined. So even when you make it back after an Achilles tear, it’s unlikely you’ll be as fit as you were prior to the injury.

Researchers said the pandemic has resulted in compacted seasons and shorter offseasons, which could increase Achilles tendon rupture risk, which ends careers for roughly one in four athletes who suffer the injury.

“As professional leagues modified seasons and players returned to sports without proper rest or preseason, we knew there could be injury consequences for athletes,” said Tyler Gonzalez, MD, MBA, Assistant Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at University of South Carolina/Prisma Health and senior author of the review. “The players, coaches, managers, and fans need to understand that we all want these players to come back and play, but we have to do it safely and within the appropriate timeframe so our players stay healthy and can perform at the highest level.”

The 111month timeline to return to sport is nearly double the return to normal activity timeline for average individuals, which is roughly six months. But considering all that professional athletes ask of their bodies compared to the average individual on a daily basis, it’s not all that surprising that their recovery to peak form would take longer. That said, this information can also be helpful in allowing an orthopedic surgeon the ability to give injured athletes a more realistic timeline for when they can expect to return to their sport.

“This study helps us better understand the performance outcomes and recovery process for professional athletes after an Achilles tendon tear, said Dr. Gonzalez. “Surgeons can now use this knowledge to set expectations on rehabilitation and return to play for their patients. Additionally, this study should aid coaches, players, and managers in understanding the importance of preventing this type of injury and focusing on proper return-to-sports protocols.”

Achilles tendons tears are almost always treated with surgery, so if you or someone you know has suffered a tear, make sure they reach out to an experienced orthopedic surgeon to determine the best course of action, especially if they are active or an athlete! To connect with an Achilles specialist in the greater Twin Cities area, give Dr. Silverman and the team at Silverman Ankle & Foot a call today at (952) 224-8500.