Achilles Tendonitis

According to a well-known Greek myth, the god Achilles was impervious to the arrows of his enemies—except for his heel, which proved to be his downfall. This part of the anatomy can also prove to be a problem for athletes who participate in sports that demand a lot of jumping, starting and stopping, such as tennis, basketball or running up and down hills.

That’s because increasing this kind of activity too quickly, or doing too much, can lead to Achilles tendinitis, also commonly known as Achilles heel.  Your Achilles tendon attaches the muscles that run down the back of your calf to your heel bone, and it can acquire small tears that inflame the tendon.

Achilles tendinitis can cause dull pain, swelling and stiffness in the heel, which may seem to feel better immediately after you start moving, but then worsen again as you continue the activity such as running or jumping.

Basic at-home remedies, such as rest, compressing the heel and taking anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen, help Achilles tendinitis heal in the majority of cases.

But if the tendinitis isn’t going away, if your heel makes a crackling noise when you touch it, or if you can’t bend your foot towards the ground, you may have ruptured the tendon, and you should see your doctor immediately. He or she will examine your foot and may use magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, to evaluate whether your heel pain could stem from another injury.

If you do have Achilles tendonitis, your doctor may suggest you add extra support to your shoes, since the condition also can result from over-pronation, in which the feet have flat arches. You may also need to use crutches or a supportive boot to take pressure off of the heel. In the most extreme cases, surgery might be needed to snip off the enflamed tissue surrounding the tendon.

To prevent a recurrence of Achilles tendonitis, make sure you increase your activity level gradually, and that you stretch the tendon and your calf muscles regularly to keep them pliable. Using these tips, Achilles’ downfall doesn’t have to be yours.


Your brain is a delicate organ; luckily, the fluid between the brain and the bony skull usually provides plenty of cushioning. If you hit your head very hard, however, your brain can shake inside of your skull, potentially causing serious problems with brain function. Sports that can boost your risk of a concussion include those that potentially involve collisions, such as snowboarding, boxing, hockey, soccer, football, biking and skiing.

Symptoms of a concussion can vary, and if you think you or a friend, family member or teammate may have suffered from a concussion, it’s important to visit a physician as soon as possible, since an untreated concussion can have symptoms that persist for months, and can even cause permanent brain damage. Common symptoms include losing consciousness after the head injury; feeling drowsy; and being unable to recall what happened around the time of the injury. Signs of a concussion that may require emergency treatment include becoming disoriented or confused; having pupils that are unequally dilated; vomiting; muscle weakness; and trouble walking. Because concussions can involve the head and spine, take care when moving someone who may have had a concussion.

Treatment varies depending on the severity of the concussion. For children and young adults, a concussion that causes loss of consciousness generally means the athlete will have to wait at least three months to resume practice. A trained health professional can evaluate when it is safe to return to training. Sufficient rest is crucial before returning to play to prevent potentially serious complications that can arise if a concussion does not heal fully, or if the athlete suffers from another brain injury.

To prevent a concussion, be sure to wear adequate protective gear, such as a helmet, when participating in high-risk sports such as biking or skateboarding.

Abdominal Strain

Weight lifting, or even just lifting a heavy object using improper form, can cause an injury to the abdominal muscles that is known as an abdominal strain. This injury usually affects the front abdominal muscles, but can also cause pain in the muscles on the side of your abdomen, known as the oblique muscles. Football players and weight lifters are at the highest risk of this injury.

The first symptom of an abdominal strain is pain. You likely will find it very painful to do crunches or touch your toes, and you may experience muscle spasms in your abdomen. Severe abdominal strains also can cause swelling and bruising of the affected muscle.

If you think you may have strained your abdomen, the first line of treatment is icing the area, taking anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen to decrease swelling, getting plenty of rest, and possibly stretching the area gently if this does not cause pain. If your pain persists, consult a physician to find out how you can better help your injury heal. In some cases, surgery is necessary to repair torn tissue, and steroid injections also are sometimes employed to facilitate healing.

It can take anywhere from weeks to months for an abdominal strain to completely heal; recovery time varies based on the severity of the injury along with your body’s response to treatments. Once you think your abdominal muscles have healed, use caution when returning to your training. First make sure you complete simple tasks such as doing crunches or touching your toes; this will provide a good indication of whether you have completely healed. Jumping back into training before the muscles have completely healed is dangerous; it can lead to another abdominal strain–perhaps one even more serious than the first one.

When you return to training, start slowly. Keep your core muscles–your abdominal and back muscles–strong by doing exercises such as crunches and working on an inflatable exercise ball. The stability that a strong core provides can help prevent future abdominal strains.