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The Achilles Tendon

Almost any motion that involves the ankle is difficult unless this tendon is intact and functioning.

Many fitness professionals have dealt with an Achilles tendon injury, either their own or a client’s. The largest and strongest tendon in the body, the Achilles connects the lower-leg muscles and calf to the heel. “Synchronous functioning” of the tendon and calf is crucial for many activities, including standing on tiptoe, running, jumping and climbing stairs (Bhimji 2016).

Dutch surgeon Philip Verheyen named the tendon (after the Greek hero Achilles) in 1693. Previously, it was known as “tendo magnus of Hippocrates” (van Dijk 2011). Read on to find out more about this key body part:

  • While both active and inactive people get Achilles tendinopathy, it’s more common in those who are active. In fact, 24% of athletes develop the condition (APTA 2013).
  • According to the NFL’s Injury and Safety Committee, about eight Achilles tendon tears occur among players (Lange 2012).
  • The most common injuries are due to overuse. Roughly 60%–75% of ruptures occur during sporting activities, including basketball and soccer (Järvinen et al. 2001).
  • Depending on speed, stride, terrain and additional weight being carried or pushed, each Achilles tendon can be subject to 3–12 times a person’s body weight during a sprint or push off (AchillesTendon.com 2016).
  • The Achilles tendon is sometimes called the heel cord, the heel tendon or the calcaneal tendon (AchillesTendon.com 2016).
  • There are two types of Achilles tendinitis: noninsertional and insertional. The former happens when fibers in the middle of the tendon break down, causing swelling, pain and thickening. The latter occurs when the tendon begins to harden where it connects to the heel (Emerald Coast Podiatry 2016).




AchillesTendon.com. 2016. Achilles tendon information. Accessed Nov. 2017: achillestendon.com/achilles-tendon-information/.

APTA (American Physical Therapy Association). 2013. Physical therapist’s guide to Achilles tendon injuries (tendinopathy). Accessed Nov. 17, 2017: moveforwardpt.com/SymptomsConditionsDetail.aspx?cid=0d1d353d-ea2c-4133-b39f-cfd856036d69.

Bhimji, S.S. 2016. Achilles tendon rupture. MedicineNet.com. Accessed Nov. 2017: medicinenet.com/achilles_tendon_rupture/article.htm.

Emerald Coast Podiatry. 2016. Achilles tendonitis fast facts. Accessed Nov. 17, 2017: emeraldcoastpodiatry.com/blog/post/achilles-tendonitis-fast-facts.html.

J├ñrvinen, T.A.H., et al. 2001. Achilles tendon injuries. Current Opinion in Rheumatology, 13 (12), 150–55. Lange, A. 2012. The Achilles tendon: Fascination facts about body parts. Thestar.com. Accessed Nov. 17, 2017: thestar.com/life/health_wellness/2012/10/16/the_achilles_tendon_fascination_facts_about_body_parts.html.

van Dijk, C.N., et al. 2011. Terminology for Achilles tendon related disorders. Knee Surgery, Sports Traumatology, Arthroscopy, 19 (5), 835–41.

Joy Keller

Joy Keller is executive editor of IDEA Fitness Journal and IDEA Fit Business Success, and is also a certified personal trainer, indoor cycling instructor, yoga teacher (RYT 200) and Reiki Master.

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