Since she was six, gymnast Nia Dennis has had one dream. But that goal was cut short after a training session last year.
“My goal is to make the Olympic team. I knew something was off when I was starting to run my tumbling pass, and I felt a pop, and my whole calf got tingly and cold,” said Dennis.
Dennis ruptured her Achilles, the tendon that connects the calf muscle to the heel bone.
Doctors have seen a 300 percent increase in these types of injuries over a 10-year span. And though most common in young athletes, the fastest growing patient class are older, active, and between ages 30 and 50.
“I think we’re seeing more of the middle aged and older patients, because they are staying active longer,” said Dr. George B. Holmes, Jr., a foot and ankle orthopedic surgeon.
But you may be able to prevent an Achilles injury.
First, wear the right shoes. If your soles have uneven wear marks, toss them. Try using an ankle brace for support during risky activities, like a mud run.
Also, perform strength and balance exercises such as standing on one leg for 30 seconds or one-leg mini squats. Do 10 reps to the front, side, and back, repeated three times on each leg. And, stretch before and after physical activity.
“The tires are the only thing that touches the road in a car, so they always tell you to have really good tires, so similarly the feet and the ankles are the first things that hit the ground for everyone,” said Dr. Simon Lee, a foot and ankle orthopedic surgeon.
Dennis eventually had surgery, and she is already back competing in level 10 gymnastics.
For ways to incorporate ankle injury prevention tactics into your workout and warm-up routines, check out the Ankles for Life website.