Day 1: How my life changed in an instant Monday 7th April 2008

All squash players have heard stories about other squash players that snap their Achilles tendon. Of course this always happens to the other guy and nothing can prepare you for when the "other guy" becomes you !!

It was a Monday night and I am playing Division one pennants. I was up against one of my arch enemies (and I mean that in the nicest possible way) who over the years I have had some fantastic hard games against. I remember the last hit we had - it was so hard I could hardly walk for 2 weeks after the match !!

So here we were again locked in an epic battle. I lost the first game but then won the second in only what could be described as one of the hardest games of my life. I remember coming off the court and thinking to myself I was entering uncharted waters with regards to my fitness levels. You could say I was stuffed.

Lucky for me my opponent was also tired and I won the next game fairly easily and was leading 4 - 0 in the fourth game.

And then it happened.

I was stretching for a back hand shot when i felt my Achilles snap. The feeling was exactly like all the "other guys" describe it. Like someone whacking you behind the calf with a squash racket or someone whipping you behind your leg. For me the best way of describing it is imagine having a big thick elastic band strapped inside your leg and then someone cuts it !!

Amazing enough there was very little pain. I remember thinking to myself this should hurt more than this !! One other good thing was my calf muscle did not wrap itself up into my leg as I have heard stories of. In fact because it didn't do this I was hoping it wasn't actually torn but only sprained. And then I felt down to the spot my beautiful Achilles should be - it wasn't there - just space :( I knew then my life had changed in an instant.

So what happens next?

I have never snapped an Achilles before so I wasn't really sure what I should do. The first sentence i spoke was "can someone please phone an ambulance". This just blurted out as I was waiting for excruciating pain to happen and I figured the ambulance drivers would be best placed to administer pain relief. But this was put on hold when the pain didn't eventuate and I had a chance to collect my thoughts.

I bum shuffled myself out of the court, elevated the leg, iced it and started to go through my options.

When anything like this happens the first thing you think of is getting to the emergency department ASAP. Lucky for me I had a good mate that was willing to drive me to hospital so I was bundled in the car and off we set. As we were driving there I had a change of mind. I was in no pain and knew the hospital emergency dept would just strap it up and tell me to find a specialist tomorrow. So I asked him to drive me home.

Lucky for me we live next door to a doctor and she strapped me up and sent me to bed with pain killers.

Lesson Learnt: Squash is a unique game especially designed to snap the Achilles Tendon!.


Ivana said...

Hi there. I reaptured my AT on January 19, 2009. I was playing basketball and suffered the incredible pain of the pop. I turned around to see what was going on and collapsed almost right away. It was horrible. I had surgery the next day and I am now in week 7 of the recovery stage - still in NWB, boot and crutches. I hate it much. I really do. The thing is - I ran a half-marathon and a full marathon just a few montsh ago and so I went from the best of shapes to atrophy on my right calf - which is scary and did I mention I hate it. I am wondering what is to come. I know it will be a while before if ever I resume the kind of running training I am used to. Still. I dream about the day I can put on two sneakers. I know the pain is and will be part of the recovery process. I am prepared for that - still, I just want to get there and shed those aweful crutches. Thanks for sharing your exprience, it is very helfpul to read in those dark moments when all feels so gloomy. I wonder how many more weeks I have before I resume walking least. I am planning to start water-swimming as soon as I can. Well, thanks once again for sharing

Doug said...

For how another guy is pushing the rehab envelope:
I think these doctors are way too cautious!

felipe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
felipe said...

I snapped mine on friday! just 5 days ago playing tennis, the evil pop!i knew straight away what had hapenned and almost cried, there was no pain but just menatl discomfort!the surgery happened on the same day which apparently is good. I have a cast up to 10cm above my knee which really really sucks. I am also due to fly on sunday 10 days after the incident, am alittle nervous about the cast and the pressure but my doc says its fine but then again i had it done in Thailand.......not very sure about the quality of medicine here but i have heard its very good.
From what i see the recovery seems a little painful and long, how long do you think until i can run and play tennis again????? :(((((

Graham said...

Hi. I'm 47 and snapped mine last night in a dance group I ran for the first time in three years (familiar, story, right?). The 'snap' was so loud my friend dancing next to me heard it! I was surprised it didn't hurt more. I felt feint and nauseous and was in shock, but was revived by strong, sweet tea (the English answer to any emergency situation). I was taken by my partner to Accident & Emergency and they put my leg in plaster, up to the thigh, with my knee at 45 degrees and the foot angled down, ballet points-style. I was told that it will either heal the antural way or will require surgery, and on Tuesday this week I hope I'll find out. Doing anything on crutches is difficult - carrying liquid (tea again) impossible as I'm hopping around hoping not to fall over. I feel I'm very lucky I have a partner who has the time to look after me. Fortunately I'mself-employed and only have to hop 3 yards to my home office to work, but I'm not looking forward to the lack of exercise, as it's an important part of my life - although I wish I had spent more time exercising recently then this wouldn't have happened.

Wishing everyone a speedy recovery,

Graham (Cheltenham, UK).

Charlotte said...

Hey there,
I snapped my achilles tendon playing netball about 5 days ago and I'm only 15 years old. I thought I'd been kicked in the back of the leg as I just fell straight to the ground, I even looked around because I thought someone had pushed me over. I had instant pain and could not move my foot or calf muscle at all. They put me straight into a fibre glass cast for 1 month and then I go and see a specialist and he will decide from there. They don't want to do surgery which is kind of good because I'd be so scared but not because i want to be able to play my high level netball again and also badminton. It sucks so bad!!

Alexandra Brown said...

Thank you for your story....I ruptured my Achilles and also tore some calf muscle last week in a triathlon and just had surgery yesterday. I have been wondering whether or not I would ever get back to my sporting life (I too am an avid skier, runner, cycler and swimmer). This is the first real injury I have ever had. You have given me hope! Thanks.

Kamarul said...

Hi David. I had ruptured my AT last week Saturday, 20th March while playing football. There was a pop sound, felt like somebody kicked me on the calf, when I realized that there was no one near me. It was just like what you've described. I had my surgery on the same day and it is almost a week since. Thanks for your blog.

Anonymous said...

Hi everyone. I'm a 15 year old girl who does about 6 sessions of field hockey a week. I have suffered from achilles tendonitis for almost a year but i now think that it has moved onto the degeneration stage as I can feel a constant creaking sensation when I walk or run. Does anyone have any experience of this or know how far away from a rupture I might be because im really scared of one. Also cannot stop exercise as i have trials coming up and need to stay fit. any advice would be greatly appreciated

Anonymous said...

Hi I live in New Zealand and I was playing netball 7yrs ago when I heard what sounded like someone clapping 2planks of wood together NO pain then crash to the ground. I remember thinking who hit me??? Absolutley no pain at all. Off to hospital I went and the DR i seen said oh well u have ruptured it so we will just put u in a cast and u should be right after a few wks. Well I ended up in intensive care due to getting a blood clot in the lung from sitting round all day with my leg imobalized. From here a different Dr visited me and said I should of been operated on that nite. This was the beginning of a long recovery period. I had an operation but this failed as I re ruptured my achilles 2x and both times due to tearing it I had intense pain!!!!!! Spent a long time in a moon boot for mnths on end crutches and then at the end of it all its never healed. 2 yrs on crutches not working cannot walk proberly but no pain at least I suppose thats one thing. I cannot run ride a bike as I have no balance. I cannot go bear footed as the pain if I step on an un even surfuce is ridiculous. I have a huge ugly scar that runs up to the back of my knee and I walk with a permanent limp. There is a huge hollow where my achilles used to be and the surgeon who did my op told me IM just walking on scar tissue and should it ever go again then they would need to take muscle from my thigh and try to make a new tendon from that!!!! If only they operated on it the nite i snapped it. So my advise to all out there have surgery asap and u may find it ll heal so much better

Kevin said...

David, I'm 45 and ruptured my AT on June 25, 2010 playing baseball. I had surgery on June 30.
Thanks for the vivid description of your thought process as you went through the injury and early stages of repair/recovery. Your sensations shadow my own quite completely. I feel quite fortunate to have received excellent care thus far. In a cast below the knee for 1wk following surgery, moved to a removable walking brace at that point. I am now doing range of motion exercises and hope to move to real PT after a few more weeks. I realize that this will be a long haul, but hope to be able to golf in October (maybe) and back on the slopes for the ski season (should be possible). I place great trust in my surgeon and have taken the approach of doing as I am told and asking lots of questions to push the boundaries.

AS said...

This happened to me last week playing basketball. It must have been quite a shock to my system as I threw up repeatedly afterward and almost passed out. The idea of an Achilles tendon snapping is just so gross. I have surgery on Thursday and am so nervous. Thanks for posting this info it makes it a bit easier knowing what is ahead. Adam

Fred said...

Day 1

I thought I might do a comparative comment as I work my way through the process. I severed my tendon on a piece of tin whilst pulling an old water tank apart. I sat down straight away and thought “this isn’t good”. I was pretty sure that it was completely severed but I didn’t want to risk further injury in case it was still attached by a thread. It was cut very low and close to the bone. I was driven straight to hospital and there wasn’t much pain to speak of just a sense of wishing I could turn back time, and avoid said injury. I really didn’t think I had time for this.

At the hospital the Surgeon took a few pics and said it was an emergency due to the risk of infection and I was under the knife that afternoon. I awoke about 2 hours later with a back slab on and relatively no pain. The nurse encouraged me to have some pain relief and I had a shocking reaction so that was it as far as I was concerned. My entire stay I didn’t touch another pain killer.

Jackie said...

Hi so sorry to hear that you all have suffered the dreaded AT rupture. I ruptured my right achiles while dancing on a girls weekend away in October 2010. I thought I had broken the floor board or expected a bone to be stuck out of my leg as the snap was so loud. I did it at 3am so put my leg up on a pillow and tried to tell myself it was just a sprain or something. The next morning I tried to stand on it but my leg just collasped and calf mucles cramped up. I went to the nearby hospital who after phoning my local hospital put me in a balarina cast and sent me off iwth crutches with instructions to make an appointment with my hospital asap.

I got the train home later that day - with help that end from friends; hopping off the train onto the platform with my suitcase the other end was abit of a problem as my husband was late meeting me - I had stopped him from travelling up to pick me up still thinking all is fine - no problem.

2 days later I saw the specialist who confirmed a snapped AT and booked me in for an operation as seemed to have the quickest recovery period.

The next day I hopped up the step from my garden into the house when snap the other AT snapped ahhhh!!

To cut a long story short I had both AT operated on a few days later and spent 3 weeks off my legs nightmare!! I had to have a commode by my bed - slide board to get onto it and a wheelchair.
Reality then hit me - this was pretty serious.

After a month the casts were replaced by the lovely moon boots as were healing well. I spent the next week hobbling about like Lee Evans on Theres something about Mary. This was the most painful part as felt like my tendons were going to rip apart every time I tried stand/walk.

I returned to work in December after 9 weeks off and is now 5 months since my injuries happend and am still very stiff and having problems with calf muscles tightening up etc.

I really did think that I would be able to resume normal activities by now; horse riding, running etc by now but think its going to be some time and am now getting very concerned.

I would be grateful if anyone could let me know the long term effects and wish you all a speedy recovery

Anonymous said...

I don't think that you will have any long term effects. Now that you can move about, keep the exercise going. I returned to squash at 15 weeks post op, but the limp stayed with me for ages, maybe 8 months. You have ruptured both tendons, so don't have a "good" leg. My guess is that a couple of months down the line you will be almost back to where you want to be. Walking is very good exercise as you have to stretch the tendons.

Jeff - uk

Harald Harb said...

Hello, Very good reporting, I did my Achilles two weeks ago, skiing in Austria, this is the second one, but the other foot, last one was thirty years ago. I am a professional skier and used to be a professional tennis teacher, that's how I did my first one.

My physiotherapists here in the USA and surgeon (in Austria, where this happened) are very conservative.

I'm also a rock climber, which makes this an especially difficult injury to get back from and into climbing with, because you are always standing on your toes when climbing. My plan is to be back climbing easy stuff in 12 weeks. I'm an ex bike racer, so biking is something I do, and I also used after my first achilles tear for rehabilitation.

The first 8 weeks are horrid, but after that things begin to get better quickly. Have a look at my skiing videos on, You Tube, they might help you enjoy your skiing more then you are now. You are obviously and enthusiastic skier. It's a great sport. I have many skiers coming from Australia and New Zealand to our camps. Cheers Harald

This is my Blog address: Ski Blog with Harald Harb,

Kevin said...

Hi, great to see so many take time to relive their stories and recoveries.

I managed to hear that fateful snap while playing football only 3 weeks ago. Despite my ankle going numb there was no real pain just no control, I managed to walk back to my car and drive home. After a couple of hours with my feet up the pain crashed in and off to hospital I go. Typical Glasgow boy tho I thought I would get a bandage, some painkillers and sent on my way so drove to A&E.

Finally got seen and told 8 weeks in plaster with my car sitting in the car park!!!

A bit dissapointed in my doc tho, was told to persevere with no surgery and just cast that is making life with 3 young kids and twins on the way mighty difficult!!!

Anyway I get cast off and foot changed position in 2 weeks then hopefully start walking a bit more. long process but I'm hopeful of making the start of next season come August.

Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Hi, really interesting accounts of snapping ATS.Just done mine...
... I thought I had broken a floor board whilst showing a mate a dance move, collapsed in a heap and could not stand up. I thought I would go to bed and it would all be OK by morning. But morning came with intense pain and no ability to stand up. After a visit to A & E, and the dreaded diagnosis, leg in cast etc. I have been thinking this isn't that serious I will carry on, even though the hospital warned me to rest. My hubby has been reading the riot act to take it easy and now having read these stories it has opened my eyes. So thanks to these sites and other peoples experiences I will behave from now on and accept I have to rest.

Randall Lackey said...

Hello I am Randall!I feel my life changed. I'm NEW to this... i am in week one after surgery .. no infections.just now in last couple of days it seems to be less painful..
can anyone shed some light, What to expect for the next 6 weeks... i guess to give me Achilles in my ankle it was severed at work.. i have 4 inches cut up my ankle with staples. so what do i expect from week on.. does it get better every day???

Croose Hackle said...

Achilles tendonitis is a painful condition that can cause pain with every step you take. As the name suggests Achilles heel tendonitis affects the Achilles tendon. The Achilles tendon connects the heel of the foot to the calf muscles.