To get the ball rolling here, I’m a 47 year old male who decided to play basketball for the first time in many years. I walked into the old guy, half-court 3-on-3 game and told everyone this was my first time playing in a long time so I’m taking it easy. I quickly score the teams first three baskets and the guys playfully accuse me of sandbagging. The next play, I innocently move to the right when it felt like someone kicked me in the back of the leg really hard. SO hard, I looked behind me ready to tell whoever it was to chill out. Unfortunately, no one was standing there. I immediately felt a numbing rush of blood make it’s way down my calf and through my foot. I grabbed my leg to see if it was indeed a torn achilles but everything felt intact. I did have a sharp pain in my upper achilles/ lower calf. I limped off the court in shock that what I feared may have come true. I got hurt and wouldn’t be able to ride my bike!
Now, don’t assume I just stepped off the couch and into this game. I’ve been athletic my whole life (6′3″ 205 lbs/93kg/14.6 stone) and have been cycling/mountain biking for the last 5 years. I average about 6-8 hours a week of moderate to intense cycling and admittedly don’t let me legs recover as much as they should. I quickly learned that strong cycling legs that exercise in a fixed position don’t translate that well to the sharp, random cutting motions in basketball. This was at the end of October.
I am fortunate to have good health care and went to my general doc who was able to do an ultrasound and confirm a 5mm tear where the achilles meets the calf. This diagnosis came from the ultrasound tech who I asked during the scan if there was anything in the lower achilles because it felt sore there as well. He saw something but wrote it off to fluid. He had to look at my healthy achilles on the other foot to compare. A small red flag went off as I felt like he wasn’t sure but the doc just told me to go to PT for three weeks and everything should be fine. I could have went to my orthopedist but I didn’t think it was that serious. The doc certainly didn’t make it seem that way.
Physical Therapy was progressing slowly as I was getting ultrasound, graston massage, stretching and strengthening I wore a compression sock mostly during this time which I can’t recommend enough. They really helped control the swelling and gave me support when I walked. As we approached the 3 weeks of prescribed therapy, I was getting worried that I couldn’t even think about raising up on my injured foot. My time off the bike was the longest it’s ever been. I was losing my fitness! On Nov. 19th I felt like I was walking a little better but when I took a step in my back yard off of a larger than normal step, I felt another pain in the lower achilles. I figured I just aggravated it but continued to ice and use the TENS unit I have at home as much as I could. It got black and blue and a little swollen again but not too bad.
My next visit to PT was 4 days later and while the therapist was massaging my calf he noticed my achilles and said I should go to my orthopedist. I was fortunate to get in that same day. He quickly took a glance and informed me he was 99% sure it was ruptured and I needed surgery. An MRI confirmed my worst fear and surgery was scheduled for two days later. He gave me the option to get a PRP injection into the wound after it was repaired. I jumped on it knowing that this option is used by many pro athletes with their injuries. I am by no means a pro athlete but wanted to take advantage of everything I could for a solid recovery. When I optimistically asked if a 6 month return was realistic he said his protocol was more like 9 months for return to sport. Wow.
After the relatively painless surgery, I was placed in a light splint and would return to see him 3 days later. During the visit my splint was removed and the wound was covered with steri-strips. The actual stitches were under the skin and dissolve on their own. PT would start 2 days later! Passive movement, massage and light ROM has been the routine for the last 2 and a half weeks. My therapist says things look amazing and my swelling is minimal and ROM like someone at 10 weeks! My calf was sore for the first 10 days but I’m pretty sure it was just from it eating itself as there is pretty much nothing left of it at this point. It does feel amazing to have someone manipulate my leg. I can’t imagine what the people who are casted and left alone for 6 or more weeks. However, I know this isn’t a sprint. It’s a marathon. My mind game must be as strong or stronger than my physical healing. I am to start PWB at 6 weeks staring with 25%, then 50% week 7 and so on. I can start no resistance stationary bike at 8 weeks so that is my short term goal so far and I am looking forward to that!
I am taking this a week at a time and envy the previous blogs that started and completed their journey here. All the posts from the past have taught me many things and helped give me perspective. I hope to give others something to compare their journeys with as the others have. If you’re just starting like me, we can do it together! If I were able to give some advice this early on it would be: DITCH THE CRUTCHES and get a scooter. ;)
Follow me on Instagram @toddjgriz for some recovery pics that may not make it on to here.
Thanks for reading.