The Injury You Can't Recover From

And how to prevent it in the first place

Prevention—February 28, 2013

If you lead an active lifestyle, the odd injury is pretty much inevitable—and that risk increases as you age. But hurting your Achilles tendon is one boo-boo you’d be wise to avoid: New research suggests that the tendon isn’t able to heal itself once you’ve hit adulthood.

Injuries to the Achilles tendon, usually caused by sports like running, tennis, or basketball, are notoriously slow to heal. The latest study into the problem revealed that Achilles tissue doesn’t renew itself once it stops growing (a phenomenon also known as “slow turnover”)—so the tendon you’ve got when you’re 17 is the exact same one you’ve got at 45 years old.

Slow turnover translates to slow healing time.

Where Achilles injuries are concerned, this study offers more evidence that preventing damage in the first place is top priority. “We should try to intervene before there is a tear or severe tendon damage,” says William Briner Jr., MD, a sports medicine physician at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. Here, Dr. Briner and colleague Andrew Elliot, MD, a foot and ankle surgeon, share their tips to prevent the problem:

Choose smart shoes. A podiatrist or sports medicine physician can help you determine the right shoes for your feet. For instance, if you’ve got a high arch, look for cushioned shoes, and if you have flat feet, seek out supportive footwear. Replace your shoes once the heels have worn out.

Be selective about sports. Avoid activities that require a lot of jumping, sprinting, or other explosive movement. That’s especially true if you’ve suffered minor Achilles injuries in the past.

Ease in. When you start a new activity or workout regimen, increase intensity and distance gradually. And always warm up for a few minutes before you really break a sweat.

Read the full story at prevention.com.

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