Q&A — Lindback Tore His Achilles Stretching?

You may have heard that static stretching was bad for you – – and at first glance this may seem like more proof for the ‘stretching is bad’ pudding (an NHL goalie ruptured his achilles for goodness sake!), but hold your horses. Let’s try to figure out how this could actually happen.

It is always tough to know exactly what happened, but it was reported that he injured himself stretching or that he hurt himself while getting up after stretching. Anyway, however you slice it this one falls under the ‘freak accident’ file.

Or does it?

Do any of you have chronic stiffness or maybe even mild pain in your Achilles tendon (the cord-like tendon at the back of your ankle, just above your heel)?

You might feel it until you get warmed -up and then it goes away and you are all good right?

Well, what if I told you this was a warning sign that gets ignored WAY too often.

Here’s why it is a big problem.

That chronic irritation (could be called a mild tendonosus) is causing the tissue in the tendon to remodel as it tries to fix itself (all the while humming the Coldplay hit “Fix You”). Our bodies are genius!

However, what would you do if the fence in your yard constantly blew over in the wind?

You would build a stronger fence right?

And if that fence blew over?

An even STRONGER one right?

It is natural and it makes common sense. In fact, this is exactly what your body will do. It will try to make that tendon stronger and stronger. BUT, there is a cost to this adaptation.

The stronger form of connective tissue that tendons are made from is not quite as flexible and elastic as the original tissue. It is a little more plastic which makes it more vulnerable to tearing, rather than just over stretching.

Remodelling to recover from an injury is awesome – we need our body to do that, but if this chronic low-grade remodelling goes on for months and months or years and years, you are changing the properties of the tendon and setting yourself up for one of these ‘freak’ accidents.

You very rarely see a rupture Achilles in an athlete under the age of 27. It is a classic weekend warrior injury and part of that is probably that it takes time for that chronic remodelling to occur.

So if you have had pain or stiffness in your Achilles for so long that you just think “oh yeah, that’s just the way it is, I just need to get it warmed up and then it is all good”, remember that you could be causing chronic micro-trauma and setting up this cascade of events.

So do your calf stretches, work on your ankle mobility, get on the calf with a lacrosse ball, even massage the Achilles with your fingers – work on that tissue quality.

Calf Stretches -but check out my “PS” at the end of the article for why this might not do anything to help.

Ankle Mobility – again, it may be your hip that needs the stretch more than your ankle.

LAX on Calf – do this one for sure

Stay safe.

PS – also keep in mind that the chronic irritation of the achilles probably has nothing to do with the achilles – it could be coming from poor mobility at the hip, which forces you to overuse the flexion at your ankle, which puts more load on the achilles.  See what I mean?  So if you are one of the players who is chronically stiff and sore and tweaking the achilles – give your friendly sport physio (or whomever you trust) a shout and get a good hands on assessment (not just anti-inflammatory meds so you don’t feel it as much) and keep your body tuned up with THIS