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Player to Player: Recovering from a Ruptured Achilles Tendon

May 25, 2008 12:04 PM

Real Tennis Players - Like You! - Asking For, and Offering, Advice on the Sport They Love

Player to Player is USTA.com’s regular feature in which everyday tennis players are given a forum to ask advice on the sport they love – and their fellow players will dish out advice. We’ll post a number of the best responses we receive to our question of the week.

PLAYER TO PLAYER DOESN'T WORK WITHOUT YOUR QUESTIONS, so please send any queries you’d like answered, or responses to other players' questions, to Player@USTA.com.



This week's question from Heidi:

"Can anyone give me any helpful tips on getting my ball toss more consistent for my serve? My toss is all over the place (usually off to my right - I am a righty). For some reason, no one has been able to give me any solid advice that works on how to correct this. I am a 4.0 club player. Please let me know if you can help."

Please share your advice with Heidi by emailing Player@USTA.com and include your name and hometown.

Got a question of your own? Send that along, too!

Last week’s question from Lori
(Please note: There's no need to send additional responses to this question)

“Has anybody out there come back to tennis after surgery for a ruptured Achilles tendon and, if so, what type of shoes and/or supports have you used for preventative measures?"


From Kit, Charleston, SC:

I ruptured my Achilles in January 2006. Once I was released to play again, I started back in the K-Swiss Ultrascendor Mid. I felt very confident wearing this shoe while easing back into tennis. It is very supportive of the Achilles (and ankle), while still very comfortable. I played in it for a few months and have now moved back to my regular shoe (K-Swiss Ascendor). Good luck with your comeback!

From Ron, West Hartford, CT:

Your best bet is to first go through a physical therapy treatment and continue some kind of follow-up treatment afterwards and also, early on, place small heel wedges in both of your shoes to eliminate some tendon strain. However, you must remember, there is no guarantee that it will not happen again. So, a long-term ankle and leg-strengthening program is a "must."

From Bill:

I ruptured both Achilles tendons while playing tennis, one in 1992, one in 1997. Both happened late in matches.

Each recovery period was about 4 or 5 months. I played in the National 50s and Father/Son after the second one in 2000 and in 2001. I did not win any matches, but I can't blame that on the ruptures. However, my back now bothers me, so I have not played tournaments in about 4 years. I believe that the shortened tendon may affect my hamstrings and, thus, my back. I cannot get even close to touching my toes but never could do that well even as a kid.

My back problems also may have been caused by playing on hard surfaces since I was 10. No one else in my family has ever ruptured an Achilles tendon.

I was fortunate that the ruptures were not very painful, as the tendon broke completely each time.

I don't wear any special support, as the tendon area in back of each ankle is very think -- over an inch -- and my doctor told me I would probably pull something else before I ruptured either Achilles again. The only problem I have in that area is that the skin is thin, and I sometimes rub it raw if I wear the wrong shoes.

From Laura:

I have played for the last 13 years after Achilles tendon surgery with K-Swiss tennis shoes. I like very sturdy shoes. Last summer, I tore the plantar fascia in the same foot. It was better after 10 days. I am not sure why I tore the fascia. I think that I may have had a problem with the length of one leg being slightly shorter than another. I will see someone this Wednesday to check that out. Since I tore the fascia, my heel is bothering me. Otherwise, I would have ignored the situation.

I didn't have any problems for 13 years. I just started slowly, after 9 months healing. I think my fascia problem may be related to the original reason that my Achilles tore while playing tennis. I play singles at the 4.0 level.

From Lee, Borehamwood:

I think that the Nike tennis court edition shoes really help. They’re comfortable shoes, and they’re easy to move in. Just what you need on the court. About the support, I can't give you an answer. Sorry.

From John, Oakland, CA:

Yes, I have returned to tennis after my ruptured Achilles tendon. It took me 14 to 16 months before I was back on the court.

I now where Nike MAX AIR basketball shoes with Dr. Scholl's Double Air-Pillow insoles.

From Glenn, Wilmette, IL:

I ruptured my left Achilles while playing doubles on Memorial Day weekend, 2001 (I was 47 years old at the time). I had surgery to repair the injury on June 1. By the end of September 2001, I was playing tennis again -- not moving particularly well but without the "boot." I think that by the anniversary date of my injury, I had recovered full movement (which never was my greatest strength, but it is what it is). I have not chosen to wear any type of special shoes or supports for tennis.

From my perspective, the key to recovery from this injury is to do the rehab work diligently. Rebuilding strength and flexibility is critical. Find a good, experienced physical therapist and follow his/her instructions. The approach was almost "cookie-cutter" in nature -- "Week 1, you'll do Activity X, Week 2, you'll do Activity Y, etc." I still pay extra attention to exercising and stretching that area.

As a footnote (pun intended), approximately one year after my injury, I developed some discomfort in my right Achilles. I did get prescription orthotics then and went back for another round of physical therapy. I since have discarded the orthotics and (knock on wood) have experienced no discomfort since then. Best of luck.

From Abby, Richmond, VA:

Hi. Sorry to say that I have ruptured both my Achilles tendons at different times, and my doctor didn't recommend any special equipment once I had been cleared to play again. I have been doing yoga and that seems to help with general flexibility. Good luck.

From Bill W., Spokane, WA:

I had a complete rupture of my right Achilles tendon playing singles in a tournament four years ago. It happened in the second set after I was thoroughly warmed up.

After surgery, I was in a non-weight bearing cast for around three months and then in a walking boot (with heel lifts) for another three months. Following physical therapy in which we worked on stretching and strengthening, I was able to return to tennis and now play on a 4.5 team, a senior team and a mixed doubles team. In addition, I play four to five tournaments a year. I also coach high school tennis (30 years).

I have been pretty faithful about doing toe rises from a 2 x 4 board or something similar. I have worked up to the point of doing three sets of 25 on each leg. I do these three times per week. I also make a point of warming up and stretching before I go onto the court. Since my surgery, I have not had any problem, although my right calf is somewhat atrophied and, therefore, weaker than my left

Good luck with your recovery and your tennis.

*Please note that any advice given out in this forum should in no way be confused with actual medical advice. Before starting any new exercise regimen or altering your existing one, we strongly urge you to consult with your regular physician.

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