13 weeks out

Hi everyone, joining the party a little late, but just wanted to share/document my experience so far post surgery.

I fully ruptured my achilles at a volleyball tournament 9/1/2019. I was just taking a step to start my approach when hitting (I hadn’t even jumped yet) where my foot was in dorsiflexion, and I assume the force pushing off in that position was somehow enough to tear it. I heard a loud pop - I thought a ball from another court landed right on my calf or that someone from the sidelines came on the court and kicked me. It was devastating; I didn’t do anything special/push off noticeably harder than usual, and through my 13 years of playing, I’ve taken this step millions of times without an after thought. I’m extremely young for the demographic of achilles tears (21 at the time, now 22), female, not overweight (~150lbs/5ft9) and I had no pain/tightness/warning up till the moment I tore it which made me feel all the more worse about myself. I couldn’t believe it - volleyball has always been what I looked forward to the most in life (I played in college as well) and after tearing it, doing all the research I did, and seeing how horribly the injury impacted other athletes (specifically NBA players), I was in a really dark place.

I got surgery asap which wasn’t till 9/12/2019, and I was scared waiting so long would effect the healing. Afterwards, I was casted for 2 weeks, and transitioned to a boot with wedges after. I’ve never been immobile for this long in my life! Going to work was so difficult, and I got so many stares on my injury scooter. I’ve been walking in my normal sneakers for more than a month now, but I still have difficulty walking. It’s gotten better - a month ago I could only walk extremely slow with a noticeable limp, but if you actually watched me now you could still tell something’s wrong with my mechanics. I think this is causing the pain in my healthy leg’s knee and the back of my injured leg’s knee :(

Some things helping me cope: I started working on upper body within a week post surgery (as soon as the horrible pain subsided) about 4x/week. As soon as I was FWB and started to get ROM back, I started with body weight squats and whatever other lower body exercises I could do. I used to have a 225lb max squat, and today I’ve been doing 45lb goblet squats for reps (definitely not trying to push it too soon), and working out my lower body has helped a lot with my mindset. My left calf however is still smaller than my right, and I still can’t do a single leg tip toe on the left.

One of my biggest fears has been rerupture of my injured achilles or tearing my healthy one, since my PT said my right achilles was super tight. Tbh, even once I’m cleared to play, I feel like this fear will always be holding me back, and I won’t be able to play at a high level anymore. My vertical must have of course gone way down and I’m afraid it won’t ever get back to where it was. I’ve also read many other blogs/experiences and it looks like I’m behind in recovery since I still can’t even walk properly over 3 months out. My surgeon cleared me to jog a month from now, and I hope by then I’ll be able to without heavily favoring my right leg because I think I’ll just injure something else more. He also predicted back before surgery that I’d be playing light volleyball 6mo out, but with my progress I’m not sure anymore if that’s possible.

Would love to hear more experiences, specifically when you all were able to do a single leg tip toe. Hopefully things improve from here. Thanks for reading!

8 Responses to “13 weeks out”

  1. I am right behind you at 9 weeks {non-op, flat in boot, 70 y/o). If you haven’t already, take a look at Agnes’s blog (http://achillesblog.com/agnesatr/). One of the best. I can recommend several others if you want.

    Also, if you start following the Achilles Facebook page, be careful. A lot of that info is legit, but some of it looks malevolent to me. You can post your question about single calf raises on the Facebook page, but take the replies with a grain of salt.

    Good luck!

  2. Thanks for the recs, I’ll definitely check her out! I didn’t even know there was a FB page, but I’ll stay skeptical - I don’t know if this is good or bad but I started seeing 2 Physical therapists because they both have very good but different PT methods.

  3. If you’re not walking normal yet then reduce the length of your stride so you do walk normally with no limp. If you’re limping it is because your calf/achilles aren’t strong enough yet to push off that hard. Reduce the length of your stride until your walk is normal. Focus on a normal stride, not on normal stride length. As your foot/leg becomes stronger your stride will get longer. I’m quite surprised your doc said you would be running in a month! S/he shouldn’t assume you’ll be ready for anything in a month. Progress from this injury is very different for everyone. I had achilles surgery on my right leg and was back playing soccer in 6 months. I had the same surgery on my left leg and am at 1.333 years and still not playing soccer. So even for the same person recovery is not the same. If you’re not doing 1 footed calf raises in a month I don’t recommend running. If the strength isn’t there and you push it you can end up with stress fractures. Check out junebug’s last post … My delay was caused by an inflamed bone (which will end up with a stress fracture if you keep pushing it). My doc said that is caused by doing too much before the foot is ready. And I followed ALL the instructions from my doc and PT. But I do have to say that I got a bit lax about the instruction - if it hurts stop … I was so used to pushing through the pain in the past that I wasn’t really paying as close attention as I should have to what my left foot was telling me. I’m listening more closely now :) I’m hoping I’m playing soccer early in 2020. Right now my doc has OK’s me to start slowing adding in more activities. It takes bone 3-4 weeks to remottle to deal with the added stresses of new activity so that’s how I’ll space things out. I’ll start doing some jumping now to see how the foot feels. Feel free to read my blog to see how I progressed on both feet.

  4. I had a full rupture in mid July and surgery on July 26th. i’m now 20 weeks post op. 58 year old male, I’m fit and active so like you, this was a pretty big blow to my daily routine esp. since i’m retired and had really been enjoying daily sports activities. While in the boot, I got back in the gym as soon as I could to keep my upper body strength. Was out of the boot 12 weeks post op, so have been walking in shoes for 8 weeks. I try to walk 2-3 miles min each day (rain gets in the way sometimes). Had my last PT today and surprised myself by knocking out 15 single leg calf raises (they weren’t pretty, but the PT said they counted!). My flexibility is back to normal, but getting to full strength is still in the distant future. Lots of exercises to do everyday. Trying not to push it - and I stop if something hurts. My doc thinks I’ll be back playing pickleball and tennis (taking it easy) 6 months post op. Probably will be 12-18 months before I’m back to normal. Everybody’s different, but have faith, it will come. Listen to your body and try to keep at it everyday. Good luck!

  5. Im 11 months out now, but it took me about 6 months before walking normally, I normally dont walk. But I was playing pickleball pretty well at 5 months, 57 y/o. My injured left calf will probably always be smaller, and maybe another year before really equal with my good leg, IF I continue to exercise it. I dont really NEED it to be stronger, just it would be nice to be more balanced.
    I warm up 5 to 10 minutes before playing, and then I am not worried about a rerupture (I did do the surgical route).
    Dont worry, but elevate and relax, not just exercising. But stretch every day, including the back against the wall and lower yourself by bending your knees. But a little at a time. Good luck!

  6. I have almost the same story from a few months before you! Ruptured during a regular volleyball game, nothing exciting happening. And I’ve played for years on weekends with no problem.

    I totally understand your fears. What has helped me a lot was passing a volleyball to my therapist during PT sessions so I felt safe enough to play again. My PT says it’s good for the mind to do things you did “before” — and in this case, I don’t have pain when we play (although after I’m sometimes sore if I’ve jumped around etc).

    Hang in!

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