Photo Credit: Squash Engine and the Tournament of Champions
It’s 9-3 in the Fifth. Things are going my way: my body is warm, and I am moving fluidly throughout the court. My opponent hits a drop. I push-off to retrieve the ball, but there is no movement—just a sudden POP! I turn around in dismay and sternly ask my opponent, “Why did you hit me in the back of the leg with your racquet?” I suddenly realize my opponent is not behind me, but in front. Unable to take a step, I fall to the ground in agony as I realize what has happened: I’ve injured my Achilles Tendon.
Typical Squash Injury
Throughout my twenty years of experience as a physical therapist, I’ve heard this story repeated far too often. Achilles Tendon ruptures occur when the big tendon in the back of your lower leg tears mid-tendon or pulls off the bone where it attaches to the foot. When a rupture occurs, there are varying treatment options available depending on your lifestyle. Long-term casting may be used for a relatively sedentary person, but typically does not achieve great results. For a more active person looking to assure a normal lifestyle again, surgical intervention is the best option.
SPEAR Physical Therapy is the official physical therapy provider of the 2019 J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions
This injury is mainly seen amongst the “Weekend Warrior” population but can occur at the highest level of play as well. Amanda Sobhy, current PSA World #13, has just recently returned to play after rupturing her Achilles last season. Manek Mathur, current SDA World #1, is the most recent professional to face this injury. While Manek is just embarking on the long journey to recovery, Amanda sums up the challenge of the experience: “The rehab process was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to endure, both physically and mentally.”
Although there is no perfect preventative measure, here are a few tips to help decrease your chances of rupturing your Achilles Tendon:
Having good length in the calf musculature allows the Achilles to lengthen appropriately in times of maximal stress, such as pushing off to retrieve a ball.
Good lower leg and intrinsic foot strength is important for stabilizing the foot/ankle in preparation for ballistic movements.
3. Wear Correct Shoes
When playing squash, wear a shoe that provides good rear foot stability and helps maintain proper biomechanical positioning.
Active warm-up exercises, such as calf raises, are essential for providing blood flow and elasticity to the lower leg musculature.
Regular massages will help with recovery after play, promote muscle relaxation, and create needed tissue length.
Participating in other sports and training principles helps limit repetitive stress injuries, challenges different muscle groups, and prevents mental burnout.
7. Recognize Achilles Pain
Redness, tenderness, or pain to the Achilles is an indication of overuse.
Most importantly, don’t ignore the pain or wait around for it to feel better. Make an appointment to see a physical therapist as soon as possible to get a treatment plan started.
For more advice from the nation’s top physical therapists, visit spearcenter.com/sports.