Injury + Pre-Op

Hi everyone!

I’m Vicky and ever since I ruptured my achilles a couple weeks ago, I’ve been reading through this website for info, advice, reassurance before I finally decided to start my own! I’m extremely talkative and overly-detailed so I hope my oversharing and long posts don’t overwhelm or tragically bore whoever comes across this.

About Me

I’m 22 years old from the DC area and I have lived an incredibly active lifestyle since I was a kid. I just graduated college where I was a 2-sport athlete (VB/T&F) and an All-American (saying this just to emphasize that I really do a lot of high-level athletics). I’ve dealt with normal wear and tear throughout my athletic career–sprained ankles, pulled hamstrings, shin splits etc.–but I was lucky enough to never have any serious injuries so this ATR is especially scary for me. I did experience bad Achilles tendinitis in my last two seasons of volleyball, especially in my left Achilles so now I’m wondering if that had an effect or made me more susceptible to the tear. I’m grateful to have made it through college before having this injury but I want to stay extremely active in the gym and play competitive volleyball for as long as possible. I’m really trying to stay diligent with my recovery so that I’ll be able to come back with the confidence to continue my life, especially since this happened so young.

Injury: Thurs. July 30, 2020

My injury story sounds pretty typical after reading through people’s experiences. This summer quarantine, I had been biking, walking, body-weight lifting intermittently but that day was my first time playing volleyball in about 7 months. I didn’t warm up because I absolutely hate warming up (believe me, I am a changed woman now) and about 45 minutes into playing, we were doing a pass to attack drill when I made a great pass and I was excited for the chance to hit. I took a quick, small step back to start an aggressive approach and I immediately slipped and fell. At first, I thought I had slipped back and my foot bumped into the next girl in line but I asked my coach if anyone was around me and looked around to see that the closest person was about 6 feet away. I immediately realised that the sound I heard wasn’t me hitting someone else’s shoe but rather my Achilles popping. When I stood up, it felt like I suddenly had a bunch of heel inserts or that my shoe’s heel had grown a couple inches and I wasn’t able to walk or put any weight on it. My coaches carried me to the side where I kept my shoes and ankle brace on and laid on the floor with my foot elevated on a chair and a couple ice bags around my ankle. For a torn tendon, it honesstly wasn’t that painful of an injury, though I did take some Advil.

I made the trip to the ER to see what to do next since I was pretty certain it was an AT tear. They did an X-ray to make sure there were no chipped or broken bones and performed the Thompson Test to confirm that it was my Achilles. They put me in a splint and gave me crutches and told me to go an orthopedic doctor as soon as possible to move forward with treatment. I slept with my leg elevated and called the ortho Friday morning, the next available appointment was the following Tuesday.

Pre-Op

I’ll be honest, I knew the injury wasn’t great but I really didn’t understand the severity of it until I was googling up a storm later. After I got injured, my first thought was “thank god it wasn’t my ACL”, but that relief was quickly gone. I kept seeing articles of pro athletes never coming back from an ATR and random forums of people saying that it’s actually worse than an ACL injury. All of a sudden, I was really scared what my next few months would look like. I never really considered that I would be having surgery.

Quick research informed me that operative and non-operative treatment options were possible for ATR and I was determined to avoid surgery as much as possible. The more research I did, however, the more likely it seemed that I would need surgery as a young woman with an extremely active lifestyle.

My appointment was a little more casual than I expected but nothing negative. I assumed I’d have an MRI to visualize fully visualize the damage but my ortho made it clear that it was a complete rupture and didn’t even hint at any need for an MRI. I had come with my own mental list of questions to ask regarding treatment options, outcome, length of recovery, etc. but my ortho was very thorough and informative on his own. He discussed his thoughts regarding operative vs. non-op and addressed recent literature, although he said he wasn’t quite convinced about non-op on younger patients. He made it clear that this is a pretty routine surgery for him. Although risks exist, he told me I was more likely to have an accident on the Beltway than have major complications with surgery and he completely expected me to make a full recovery which made me feel better. He put me into a walking boot like this with NWB and we scheduled the surgery for the following Thursday since I was going out of town that weekend. Overall, I felt like I was in a much better place to accept what was coming and returned to the internet, and this blog to keep reading. I spent the next week crutching around my house and climbing up and down the stairs. I wasn’t in too much pain, just felt some throbbing and pressure every now and then. Getting used to sleeping in the boot

Sorry for the long winded description if anyone is out there! I’m not quite sure if any of them will really get any shorter but hopefully this helps someone else (especially younger ATR patients).

Thanks!

Vicky

2 Responses to “Injury + Pre-Op”

  1. Hi Vicky
    Hopefully everything is going well for you. It looks like I ruptured mine (8/21) and had surgery (8/26) not too long after you. Curious if you could give an update on how things have been going since our timelines aren’t that far apart.

    I had my two week follow-up appointment today and was put in an aircast walking boot, NWB for 4 weeks. After doing much research on here I am not sure I will stick to that. Probably slowly work my way up to FWB over the course of that time. I ordered a Vacoped boot that will be here in the next couple of days and plan to transition to that. My docs office did not offer it and it seems like it was preferred on here.

    Again, hope everything is going well and look forward to hearing an update on your surgery.

    Thanks
    Shane

  2. Hi Shane,
    Sorry to hear about your injury but you’re in the right place if you want some company! My foot is currently at 90º in my boot and I’m going to be NWB for the full first 6 weeks. I’m starting physical therapy this week focusing on stretching and ROM but I’ll be allowed to put 25-30% of my body weight on my Achilles in some exercises.

    I’ve looked into lots of different protocols and read about early weight-bearing measures and I’m personally not convinced it does anything exponentially more beneficial. My doctor wants me to start with movement early so I’m looking forward to that but he also explained his feelings towards early WB vs 6 weeks out.

    Playing high-level sports for a long time is extremely important to me so I’m not taking any chances that might affect my recovery in any way. I plan on taking it long and slow with my priority being a return to full strength over walking sooner, so I don’t see myself doing anything unless I talk through options with my doctor and physical therapist. I wish you the best in your recovery too!

    Best,
    Vicky

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