Squash injuries - Achilles Tendon

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Achilles Tendon squash injury experience by Ian Mellor

Since my last e-mail to you, I ruptured my Achilles Tendon, on my left leg on Oct. 16th, 2002, early into my squash game. The earliest I could get an operation putting the tendons back together was October 18th.

I have played squash since 1964 and competitvely since 1972. I am 53 years old and also run 2000-2200 miles per year. My research since the injury has been extensive and although I don't have a medical degree, I do have a medical background and have an interest in not damaging the right Achilles. My Doctor has had both operated on, one for Tennis, the other for basketball.

After 3.5 months, I am back running, having done 3 miles today, while using the stationary bike and Concept 2 Rowing machine, as 2 vehicles to allow calorie burning and continue to maintain blood circulation in the lower leg to accelerate healing. My Doctor thinks I'm somewhat aggressive, which is true but nevertheless, he says I am healing quickly.

My research with squash players and Achilles indicates that right handed players are more likely to injure the left Achilles. Males are more likely than Females. The average age is between 45-55 for the males and 35-45 for the females. The leverage of the heel allows the 1000 lbs of pressure to snap the tendon which is not so much painful, as an alien, out-of-body experience, whereby part of one's body disassocaites from the rest of the body, while the tendon curls up the back of the leg, rather like a Venetian Blind.

My point of this experience, is that Squash is the highest game for Achilles Tendon Rupture and by creating awareness to those players falling into this category, you can save them a very personal and painful experience. There are 7000+ articles on Google and the only book, which I discovered is from Finland and relates to running.

The Finnish Study at the University of Tempare, indicated that improper insoles may cause the Achilles to not be properly supported and stretch over time with pounding from running, squash, tennis etc. The whole process of repair involves allowing the Achilles to mend while short and then to slowly lengthen over time, which makes sense. So, continued monitoring of the shoe is important and my squash shoes need to be replaced.

Anyhow, once, I passed through the various stages which included going from 50 miles per week to crutches and this was tough after 25 years of keeping a running diary, I discovered that cross-training and greater understanding about the Achilles, is helpful. Most of the warm-up that squash players do, is built into running accross the parking lot, as they are late for their game. This injury often happens 30-40 minutes into the game.

I may have created the problem with too much overuse, not enough rest between my running and the squash and not enough stretching. I did not sense any Achilles problem prior to the accident. However, Faraz, my point is that many players at my club, the Evergreen Squash Club, who are mainly squash players have experienced a torn Achilles. The first item is to bring awareness to the age groups, secondly,to stretch the tendon regularly and be aware of the consequences of not doing this.

Incidentally, 5 of us ran across Wales on May 9th, 2002 (See Google and type in my name, Ian Mellor, West Vancouver, for the article), which was sold to 'The Running Times'. Of the 5 , 4 have had injuries, except the 61 year old, Gordie, who is constantly mentioning his Achilles and has done so, for 8 years but he has never injured it. He is very athletic but this does not slow him down. I called Gordie, after the accident to say "You talk about this injury, I have just torn it".

I sense you will find this problem showing up at other squash clubs. Even the doctor, an Orthopedic Surgeon, who saw me, after the accident, had his Achilles operated on at age 42.

Faraz, thanks for reading. Keep up the good work. Just a thought about my experience.

I expect to be playing within the month.

Comments from a reader

Ian, I am an avid squash player the last 8 years (played racquetball before that). In 2006, I ruptured by left achilles at age 54.5. There were no prior indications, although I had detected a mild case of heel tendonitis 2 days before the rupture. The rupture was during a reversal of direction at the backwall. Everything you describe about the injury is spot on (I am right handed). It hit me out of the blue.

I had surgical repair and was more or less incapacitated for 3 months on crutches/casted. When the last cast was pulled, I was ready to go and started gradual intensive cycling immediately By 9 months, I was visiting the court non competitively. At 11 months, I played my first competitive match, gingerly.

Today my achilles is 110% , the surgeon somehow elongated it when repairing it. I stretch dliligently (as I did the day of the injury....). More importantly, I have replaced my shows with Prince NFS2s and replace them annually. I also wear Dr Scholl_s heel wedges in both shoes (at the advice of a runner). Thanks for sharing your experience. It rings true and I agree with your conclusions, Joe Donovan, West Virginia USA

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