Achilles tendinopathy in soccer: explanations and mechanisms

 Achilles tendinopathy in soccer: explanations and mechanisms


A soccer player can feel Achilles tendon pain. The average duration of unavailability for players affected by this condition is 23 days and this duration can increase to several months depending on the extent of the tendon damage. Athletes over the age of 35 are generally affected because the quality of the tendon's vital activity decreases with age. How does football explain the onset of pain and is it solely responsible? What are the preferred treatment options?



What is Achilles tendinopathy?

Tendinopathy, in the broad sense, corresponds to a disorder of the muscle tendon. The Achilles tendon is located behind the ankle and connects the triceps muscle (calf major muscle) to the heel (heel bone).


It consists of a large amount of collagen fibers, highly resistant to stretching.


In the case of tendinopathy accompanied by structural damage to the tendon, these fibers undergo dysregulation. The tendon thickens, and a nodule (solid mass) may be observed within the tendon.


The latter loses its elastic quality and is no longer able to withstand repeated shocks when running on the ground.


Some people are more at risk than others:

With age, the biomechanical quality of the tendon is no longer as good as it used to be. In general, athletes over the age of 35 are most affected.

The short strands seem to be more restrictive.

Thin tendons also appear more fragile and therefore likely to be more prone to pain.


Football, a sensitive sport for the Achilles tendon?

Football players usually run more than 10 kilometers per game (90 minutes). On average, a defender runs about 10km, 12km for a midfielder and finally 11km for a striker.


Efforts range from low intensity running (jogging), more sustained intensity (sprinting 14-20 km/h) and more occasionally short sprints.


Therefore the Achilles tendon is subjected to very variable stresses in terms of tensile intensity.


Additionally, pre-season is often very severe for the Achilles tendons because they experience a noticeable increase in training load after being left idle for one to two months. This explains the high incidence of injuries at the beginning of the season.


Fortunately, running on soft ground (grass) is less harmful to the tendons than running on the road. This still limits the infection rate!


The importance of treatment in rehabilitation

The result of these tendon imbalances is chronic local inflammation. Therefore, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are sometimes given to reduce an athlete's pain. Only these medicines do not treat the cause of the problem, but only the result.


Treat the cause, not the effect!

It is clear that it is necessary to deal with the nature of the defect. Exercises for progressive decompression of the tendon (protocol of the Stanish type), specific massage applied to the tendon, and shock waves are performed in rehabilitation.


They will improve connective tissue healing and tendon fiber orientation, activate growth and cell regeneration factors, and stimulate local blood vessels. You will find a healthier tendon, able to support the kilometers traveled on the ground.

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