Studies show Achilles tendon rupture affects return to play and performance
ROSEMONT, Ill. (July 13, 2021) – According to the results of a recent study published in Foot & Ankle International (FAI), professional athletes who experienced Achilles tendon (AT) rupture were unable to return to sport participation 24% of the time. For those who did return, it took roughly 11 months after the injury and efficiency ratings and statistics declined. This review offers data to help set goals and expectations for athletes returning to play after AT rupture.
The pandemic led six orthopaedic researchers to review 15 studies on return-to-play outcomes related to time and rate, durability and player participation, and player performance following AT rupture in professional athletes of the National Football League (NFL), National Basketball Association (NBA), Major League Baseball (MLB), and professional soccer leagues.
“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 review included a total of 333 professional athletes who sustained AT rupture. The group had an average age of 29 years old, seven years of experience within their sport, and follow-up time of two years. Almost 25% of the players could not return to their sport. Athletes who were able to return to play required about 11 months of rehabilitation, nearly double the estimated 6-month recovery for the general population. The player performance, durability, and career length were reduced following AT rupture, specifically for NFL, NBA, and professional soccer players.
“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.”
The review, Career Outlook and Performance of Professional Athletes After Achilles Tendon Rupture, appears in the April 2021 issue of Foot & Ankle International, the official journal of the American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society (AOFAS). FAI is published by SAGE Journals.
About Foot and Ankle Orthopaedic Surgeons
Foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeons are medical doctors (MD and DO) who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of musculoskeletal disorders and injuries of the foot and ankle. Their education and training consist of four years of medical school, five years of postgraduate residency, and a fellowship year of specialized surgical training. These specialists care for patients of all ages, performing reconstructive surgery for deformities and arthritis, treating sports injuries, and managing foot and ankle trauma.
About the AOFAS
The American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society (AOFAS) mobilizes our dynamic community of foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeons to improve patient care through education, research, and advocacy. As the premier global organization for foot and ankle care, AOFAS delivers exceptional events and resources for continuous education, funds and promotes innovative research, and broadens patient understanding of foot and ankle conditions and treatments. By emphasizing collaboration and excellence, AOFAS inspires ever-increasing levels of professional performance leading to improved patient outcomes. For more information visit the American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society online at aofas.org.
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