15 June 2014

a tale of two achilles

prior to january 2007 i'd not had any athletic injuries whatsoever.

then came a fateful day on the squash court.

planting my right foot for a quick dash toward a front-wall dropshot, i felt a snap just above the ankle.  i thought that there was an accompanying audible sound, but that might have just been in my head.  the odd thing was that there was no crippling, even grimace-inducing pain.  just the knowledge that something very, very wrong had just taken place.

after a bit of a debacle at the after-hours clinic and the local emergency room (whether neither of the two doctors nor the observing medical student could tell that i'd fully ruptured my right achilles tendon) i waited a week to see a sports medicine doctor.  the sports med guy took about 10 seconds to feel where my achilles tendon used to be, left the room, and returned a minute later to tell me that he'd booked me in for surgery the next day.  he was absolutely baffled as to how three other medical specialists could not have determined that my achilles was completely blown.

long story short, the next day my surgery took place under the careful hand of dr. john o'sullivan.  the operation itself was surprisingly simple (thanks to an epidural and a book to pass the time on the operating table) ... the five hours spent in the recovery room awaiting feeling to return to the lower half of my body was a bit nerve-racking.

i wound up with a pretty gnarly scar that instills fear in young children (think Frankenstein) and prompts the occasional stranger to come up to me and (pointing toward the scar) say "i know what you had done!".

the caveat that dr. o'sullivan gave me was that under optimal conditions i could expect to regain 80% of the strength and flexibility that i had pre-injury.

that was seven marathons and easily over 10000km ago.

if i had to comment at all on my now repaired achilles tendon, i'd lean toward 110% capacity compared to pre-injury status.

quickly compare that to my brother-in-law's achilles repair job ... he ruptured his right achilles tendon springing off of a pool diving board.  his doc must have had plastic surgery skills because his scar is almost invisible - razor thin and maybe 3 inches long.  but you know what?  his achilles is tight and tender at the start of every morning.  while he's managed several half-marathons on his repair job, he would tell you that it's not been the same since the injury.

i'll take the mondo scar tissue but bionic achilles any day.

have you had any sports injuries?  how have they healed up?  have they hindered your ability to perform/enjoy your sport at all?


  1. Fortunately haven't had major issues, but have damaged my knee and my heel a couple of times; usually a couple of months of massively reduced training is what is required to recover. Slowly getting back to running since my last injury: I'm now up to 2 km runs! woohoo!

    1. i think that you are far more disciplined than i with regard to recovery and periodization, trevor ... and i have no concerns that you'll be back to fine form sooner rather than later.

      actually, i am very concerned since you are so bleeping fast. :)

  2. Wow, that's quite a scar! It's amazing what difference a good doctor can make. I'm glad you found a knowledgeable one, even if you had to wait for a week! I only had one injury so far, last March, when I stepped into a pothole at the end of my long run and fractured my right foot. Spent 6 weeks in a cast and healed completely.

    1. thanks for your comment anna! oy - i know what it's like to spend time in a cast, and that can be more frustrating than the injury itself. hope you have no residual issues!

  3. Gnarly scar Patrick! I would take performance over aesthetics any day...

    My only lingering sports injury is a not-so-great shoulder from my days playing shortstop...may a diving catch but when I landed I braced with my right arm and the elbow didn't bend, resulting in a slightly dislocated shoulder that still isn't quite right. No cool scar either :(

    1. thanks mike! does your shoulder bug you while swimming, biking or running?

      and did you make that catch? at least a diving catch story sounds more impressive than a "i was caught out of position at the back of the court and had to try to sprint toward the drop shot at the front wall." :)

    2. Haha yes, I made the play...playoffs too, so clearly worth it ;)

      The shoulder just gets tight now and then, need to get it good and stretched out. I play beach volleyball as well and that's where I notice it most. Swimming has been fine so far, knock on wood!

  4. An inspiring post. Me, only Ozgoodshlatters (very phonetic spelling) where your knee tendons and quads disagree as a a teenager. My Sister-in-law has had two knee recos and a knee clear out. !st reco - started running to strengthen it. Result, top 10 placings in first year, winning minor events 18 months later. 2nd reco, no more cartlidge left, winning most 1/2 marathon and 15-25+ trail events she runs in - minor and major events! She too has gnarly scars but a bionic knee! One day it'll go for good, but for know she's enjoying the ride...b