Achilles Tendinopathy in Soccer Players: What it is and what to do when it starts to affect your A game!
Written by Harry Papalia (Bcs. Physiotherapy)
What is it?
The Achilles tendon is located at the back of the leg and connects your calf muscles to your heel. It is the largest and strongest tendon in the body which can take up to 10x the weight of your body when playing soccer. This tendon helps propel soccer players forward when sprinting, jumping and cutting quickly, as well as supporting the ankle joint when striking the ball.
Achilles tendinopathy is irritation and degeneration of the Achilles tendon. Achilles tendinopathy can be classified along a continuum based on the severity of the condition. This involves stage 1 where there is inflammation to the surrounding tissues in the Achilles but no changes to the tendon itself. Stage 2 where there is some breakdown of the Achilles tendon and stage 3 where there is a chronically overloaded tendon resulting in irreversible changes whereby the tendon may tear.
What causes it?
- A recent spike in activity in which the tendon is not ready for, such as during the sudden onset of pre-season training after a long break after the season finished
- Reduced muscle strength of the calf muscles or other muscles such as the Glutes
- Poor control with activities such as running, jumping for a header and kicking the ball where the foot or knee turns inwards
- Recent changes in soccer boots or training surface
- The hallmark of Achilles tendinopathy is morning pain and stiffness particular after a training session the previous night
- Soccer players also note pain at the start of activity, for example during the warm-up but this can ease during activity
- The soccer players tendon can appear thicker with signs of wasting around the calf
- Soccer players usually also have stiffness in their ankle joint and tightness in their calf muscles
Treatment is based on what stage of the continuum of degeneration your tendon is at however general treatment involves:
- Reducing loading of the tendon which unfortunately means for soccer players cutting back on the amount of training to allow the tendon to heal. However, it is important to not rest the tendon completely, and some light training should be maintained such as passing and dribbling drills
- Gradually reloading the tendon with strength and power exercises
- Manual Therapy: dry needling, massage, joint mobilisations provided by a therapist
- Addressing bio-mechanical factors such as poor form when jumping or kicking the ball
- If above management has failed injections may be trialled
An exercise that can be trialled right away whatever stage of degeneration your tendon is at is isometrics. Isometrics can be used to provide pain relief for up to 8 hours.
See below to trial the exercise today if you are suffering from Achilles tendinopathy;
ISOMETIC CALF RAISES
STRUGGLING WITH YOUR ACHILLES? HARRY CAN HELP!
If you are struggling with this injury and want a more in-depth treatment plan, you can see a Physiotherapist who will assist you to get back to your A game!
Harry is currently offering a GAP FREE Initial Physiotherapy Assessment, simply contact us on 08 6110 3331 and mention this post or CLICK HERE!
Harry graduated from the School of Physiotherapy at Curtin University in 2019. Throughout his studies, Harry had a passion for musculoskeletal physiotherapy and enjoyed working with people of all ages to help them achieve their goals. He also enjoys working with athletes. He was a sports trainer for Osborne Park Football Club in 2019, and thoroughly enjoyed working with the players to facilitate recovery and performance with hands on techniques and exercise prescription. Harry is currently undergoing his Rehab Pilates training with Polestar Pilates Education and enjoys teaching the exercises he learns to his patients. He is also now incorporating dry needling into his treatment for muscle tension and pain. Harry is a keen soccer player and has been playing for 15 years. In his spare time, Harry enjoys spending time at the beach, eating Italian food and running around with his Border Collie.