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Shipley
05-08-2007, 05:15 PM
So I finally made it to a seminar that I'd been trying to get to for a number of years. An hour into it I'm having a great time, doing some shinai work, when some joker whacks me in the back of my ankle with a shinai, hard.

I turn around with a witty retort in mind, and notice that:

a) Nobody's near me
and
b) My ankle doesn't feel right

It turns out that my Achilles tendon snapped. Two days later I had it surgically reattached, I was in a boot for two and a half months, and have only just started walking without aid (with a pronounced limp). They say it will be a couple of months before it is reasonably functional, which is still well ahead of the average recovery time.

Trust me, you don't want this to happen to you. I did it lunging forward to strike in shomen with the shinai, so it was purely the force of my calf muscle that snapped it.

So the reason that I'm posting this, other than looking for group sympathy, is to pass on some painfully acquired wisdom on stretching and strenthening this tendon, and hopefully keep this from happening to you.

They say that two main causes of achilles ruptures are weak calf muscles and poor calf flexibility. This clearly wasn't the case for me (I ride about 3-5000 km a year, and stretch my calves regularly), but they are good places to start. I didn't know that stretching your Achilles with the knee bent and the knee straight stretches totally different muscles.

Raising up on your toes and slowly lowering down is supposed to help increase the shock absorbance of the calf muscles. Doing the same on stairs after the former exercise gets easy, letting the heel go lower than parallel, is a good second step. Alternating fast ups with fast downs also strengthens the tendon (again, after the latter exercise becomes easy).

Of course, being fully warmed up before shock loading anything matters a whole lot too.

A couple of links that I found useful:

http://www.achillestendon.com/
http://www.thestretchinghandbook.com/archives/achilles-tendonitis-pt1.php
http://edition.cnn.com/HEALTH/library/DS/00160.html

I also have access to a lot of the primary literature (working at a university has its benefits), but most of the information I found there was on post-surgical treatment, which I sincerely hope none of you have to go through. The pictures of the surgery were cool though!

I know that a number of you have actual medical knowledge, and anything you can chip in would be greatly appreciated. I'm deeply interested in anything that keeps this from ever happening again...

I hope this is helpful,

Paul

mathewjgano
05-08-2007, 06:17 PM
Hi there,
my fiancee ruptured her achilles as well as her brother. In their cases it was due in part to a genetic trend of having relatively small achilles. It's certainly something people these days can recover from. Thank goodness for modern medicine eh?! It also gets one to thinking about the importance of stretching and maintaining an active/healthy lifestyle! I know my fiancee lives a completely different lifestyle now and has in fact just completed her first marathon this sunday in Vancouver, so there's lots of encouragement to be found there!
Anyhow, best of luck in your recovery! Gambatte!
Matt

ChrisHein
05-08-2007, 08:53 PM
Thanks for the info. The Achilles tendon is so key to movement, we should all pay it attention.

Thanks again.

Shipley
05-09-2007, 08:52 AM
She's running marathons now? Wow, that is really encouraging. Does she have any magic secrets?

Paul

Janet Rosen
05-09-2007, 02:59 PM
Paul. I'm SO sorry you have to share this valuable knowledge by dint of your misfortune.
Be kind to yourself. Let yourself both heal and rehab fully.
and best of luck!!!! I'm sure you'll have a great recovery.

George S. Ledyard
05-10-2007, 03:42 PM
So I finally made it to a seminar that I'd been trying to get to for a number of years. An hour into it I'm having a great time, doing some shinai work, when some joker whacks me in the back of my ankle with a shinai, hard.

I turn around with a witty retort in mind, and notice that:

a) Nobody's near me
and
b) My ankle doesn't feel right

It turns out that my Achilles tendon snapped. Two days later I had it surgically reattached, I was in a boot for two and a half months, and have only just started walking without aid (with a pronounced limp). They say it will be a couple of months before it is reasonably functional, which is still well ahead of the average recovery time.

Trust me, you don't want this to happen to you. I did it lunging forward to strike in shomen with the shinai, so it was purely the force of my calf muscle that snapped it.

So the reason that I'm posting this, other than looking for group sympathy, is to pass on some painfully acquired wisdom on stretching and strenthening this tendon, and hopefully keep this from happening to you.

They say that two main causes of achilles ruptures are weak calf muscles and poor calf flexibility. This clearly wasn't the case for me (I ride about 3-5000 km a year, and stretch my calves regularly), but they are good places to start. I didn't know that stretching your Achilles with the knee bent and the knee straight stretches totally different muscles.

Raising up on your toes and slowly lowering down is supposed to help increase the shock absorbance of the calf muscles. Doing the same on stairs after the former exercise gets easy, letting the heel go lower than parallel, is a good second step. Alternating fast ups with fast downs also strengthens the tendon (again, after the latter exercise becomes easy).

Of course, being fully warmed up before shock loading anything matters a whole lot too.

A couple of links that I found useful:

http://www.achillestendon.com/
http://www.thestretchinghandbook.com/archives/achilles-tendonitis-pt1.php
http://edition.cnn.com/HEALTH/library/DS/00160.html

I also have access to a lot of the primary literature (working at a university has its benefits), but most of the information I found there was on post-surgical treatment, which I sincerely hope none of you have to go through. The pictures of the surgery were cool though!

I know that a number of you have actual medical knowledge, and anything you can chip in would be greatly appreciated. I'm deeply interested in anything that keeps this from ever happening again...

I hope this is helpful,

Paul

Hey Paul,
I hope the recovery is going ok. Everyone was crushed when you got hurt... very frustrating, I must say. I hope you can get healthy so we can try again on the intensive... Just wanted to let you know that we were thinking of you.
- George

Shipley
05-10-2007, 05:26 PM
Thank you Sensei.

The recovery is going well. I think I'm about a week from being allowed to ride a bike outside (riding on the trainer has been allowed for about two weeks now), and am able to gently teach aikido. When my calf is bigger around than my wrist I should be able to step that up a bit too.

Thanks again for taking such great care of me when it happened. The doctor did mention that the surgery was very straightforward, mainly because I didn't continue to try to walk after the injury occurred.

I'll be in Seattle in early June and will try to stop by and say hello before training one of the days I'm there. I'm definitely in for a later intensive, but I'll wait until I'm fully healed and back to full speed.

Paul

mathewjgano
05-10-2007, 05:39 PM
She's running marathons now? Wow, that is really encouraging. Does she have any magic secrets?

Paul

She pretty much just works at it regularly. Her brother's broke before hers and his recovery was a little longer because it was a different method of surgery. My fiancee's involved taking another tendon and wrapping it around the broken achilles which effectively made it thicker and stronger than her brother's, quickening the recovery. Still, they both have recently run their first marathons, so the surgery ultimately didn't make a huge difference (he's thinking about doing an ironman now, too).
Cindy (my fiancee), wears a pedometer daily and never fails to get more than 10,000 step/day (approx. 5 miles of idle stepping/walking) as a way of measuring and pushing her daily level of foot activity. Other than that, she says she just paid a lot of attention to the physical trainers.
Take care,
Matt

Shipley
05-10-2007, 09:58 PM
Thanks Matt, I'll keep that in mind. Were you at Ireisai this year?

Cheers,

Paul

Jim Ryan
05-14-2007, 02:55 PM
Paul, thanks for telling the story. Sorry about your injury. You may have saved me from popping an achilles with your warning. I had my tendons lengthened when I was a child (surgically severed and reattached), and they're really tight. I just took up aikido, and I'll be heeding your caution.

Thanks again.

Keith Larman
05-14-2007, 03:31 PM
FWIW ruptured Achilles Tendons aren't all that uncommon in Kendo and Kenjutsu circles. The constant pushing forward/"lunging" motion tends to cause quite a few of the problems. Add to the mix some of us being a bit heavier than we should be, older and not being as cognizant of proper warmups and strengthening as we should be and voila you have an issue.

Good post. It is something I remind myself of rather frequently. I spend so much time worrying about my dodgy knees and back that I sometimes neglect the other likely injuries I should worry about...

Keith Larman
05-14-2007, 03:35 PM
Forgot to add... I had a partial rupture myself a few years ago. I never figured out how or when I did it, just that one morning I noticed the swelling and tenderness. It took *many* months for that small injury to heal completely. It was really amazing how long it takes for that little fella to heal up correctly.