Page last updated at 15:36 GMT, Monday, 15 March 2010

Q&A: Torn Achilles tendon

Commentators say David Beckham's dream of playing in a fourth World Cup looks to be over after he tore his Achilles tendon.

What has he done?

Illustration of foot with achilles tendon

It is a relatively serious and common sporting injury.

The Achilles tendon is a large, strong band of tissue that connects the calf muscles at the back of the lower leg to the bone in heel of the foot.

How does it happen?

Although incredibly strong it is the most frequently ruptured tendon in the body - runners and jumpers particularly fear a ruptured Achilles tendon.

Overuse, starting up too quickly or rapidly increasing your training puts you at greater risk of rupture.

In Beckham's case, it may be something that has been brewing for some time, say experts.

He has been playing matches back to back with little chance to rest and recover, and at the age of 34, he is not the youngest player.

When the tendon snaps there is a sudden sharp pain as if you have been hit by something in the back of the leg.

This will often be accompanied by a loud crack or bang.

You will be unable to walk properly and unable to stand on tip toe.

A gap may be felt in the tendon and there will be a lot of swelling.

How is it treated?

Ellie Steele, sports therapist: "It's such a serious injury, he'd have been better off to have broken a bone"

A complete rupture, like Beckham's, usually means surgery followed by weeks of rehabilitation with no guarantee of a complete recovery.

Smaller tears may require rest and rehabilitation alone.

Beckham arrived in Finland at 1400 GMT on Monday to undergo surgery at the clinic of knee specialist Dr Sakari Orava in Turku.

This involved stitching back together the ruptured ends of the tendon so it can heal.

After the surgery, which takes about an hour, a cast or brace is put on the injured leg to aid the healing.

What is the outlook?

Dr Orava gave a bleak outlook of Beckham's hopes of recovering in time for the World Cup, explaining that it will be the middle of June before he can resume training, and at least another month before he can return to action.

"To start kicking and playing football will take about three months," stated Dr Orava. "For maximal performances and maximum kicks and jumps, maybe it takes one month more, three to four months before one is able to do light playing.

"It's a total tear of the Achilles tendon. If there is any weakness then a graft can be taken from the calf and put over the injury site to make it stronger. This kind of procedure is planned."

It is thought that up to three in 100 people who have surgery are at risk of re-rupture.

As with any surgery, there is also the risk of complications such infection and dangerous blood clots.

Print Sponsor

Beckham likely to miss World Cup
15 Mar 10 |  Football
Lineker plays down Beckham loss
15 Mar 10 |  Football


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific