A rupture of the Achilles tendon is a reasonably uncommon problem in sports activity, but can be quite dramatic if it happens, as the calf muscles and the attached Achilles tendon play such an important role in normal function. It is more likely to occur in explosive activities such as tennis and basketball. The real underlying issue is that the Achilles tendon and the two muscles attached to it cross two joints (the knee and the ankle joint) and when both the joints are moving in opposite directions at the same time, particularly if suddenly (as might happen in tennis or basketball), then the probability of something failing is fairly high. The treating of an Achilles tendon rupture is a bit controversial as there are two alternatives that almost all the research shows have quite similar outcomes. One choice is conservative and the other is operative. The conservative choice is typically placing the leg in cast that supports the foot pointing downwards slightly.
It can take approximately six weeks to get better and after the cast is taken away and after that, there ought to be a slow and gentle resumption of physical activity. Physical rehabilitation is commonly used to assist with that. The operative choice is to surgically stitch the two ends of the tendon together again, this is followed by a period of time in a cast which is shorter than the conservative option, and will be followed by a similar slow and steady return to sport. If longer term outcomes are evaluated the final result is typically about the same between the two options, however the operative technique has the additional chance of surgical or anaesthetic complications which the conservative method does not have. The choice as to which approach is best will have to be one based mostly on the experiences of the surgeon and the preferences of the person with the rupture. There is a tendency for competitive athletes to go on the operative pathway as it is believed that this may give a improved short term outcome and get the athlete back to the sports field more rapidly.