Kobe Bryant’s Injury Not exclusive to Superstars

Kobe Bryant’s Injury Not exclusive to Superstars


Average American male adult more at risk for Achilles’ tendon injury than professional Athletes

Recently, there have been many news articles covering the unfortunate injury to NBA superstar Kobe Bryant.  Many of those articles also revisit the history of an Achilles tendon injury to other professional athletes (David Beckham, Vinny Testaverde, Ryan Howard) and have compared timetables for recovery and return to their respective professional sport.  However, what the majority of news article do not address is that the average American male is more at risk for an Achilles’ tendon injury than professional athletes.   April is National Foot Health Awareness Month and the California Podiatric Medical Association (CPMA) would like the public to better understand what this injury can mean in terms of risks, treatment, and recovery for the average American.

The Achilles’ tendon is a fibrous band of tissue that connects the back of the leg to the heel bone.   It’s also known as the "heel cord," and it facilitates walking by helping to raise the heel off the ground in activities that involve walking, running and jumping.   The recognition of an Achilles tendon injury is very important, as neglected or untreated ruptures can cause many future problems with both daily activities of living and sports competition.  While an Achilles tendon injury can occur in almost anyone, these injuries have been historically linked with the “weekend warrior” American male.

The “weekend warrior” athlete is a term loosely used to describe adult males (aged between 30 to 55 typically) who engage in sporting activities for social or competitive reasons, but not as professionals.  These males tend to be de-conditioned compared to professional athletes who routinely train and condition their bodies for physical sports.   “Although anyone can experience an Achilles’ tendon rupture, there are certain recognized risk factors that place people at increased risk for rupture, “ says Wenjay Sung, DPM a podiatric physician and surgeon practicing in Los Angeles, Claifornia, who has written and spoken nationally on the repair of ruptured Achilles’ tendon.   These risk factors include:

  • Weakness of the calf muscle due to de-conditioning
  • Over-extension or exertion of the tendon
  • Specific antibiotic use (ex. Fluoroquinolones)
  • Cortisone injection(s) around the Achilles’ tendon
  • A previous history of Achilles’ tendonitis
  • Previous Achilles’ rupture treated non-surgically

Kobe Bryant was quoted as saying after the game, “I made that move a million times and it just ‘popped’”1.  He had originally thought another player had kicked him in the back of his leg.  Unfortunately for him, those experiences are typical for an Achilles’ tendon rupture.  These symptoms are the same in an average American as they are in professional athletes.  Other symptoms of Achilles’ tendon rupture include:

  • Weakness, and lack of push-off strength
  • Instability and difficulty to walk
  • Swelling around the area, more apparent when compared to the other leg
  • Sometimes pain around the area of rupture
  • Sometimes there is a noticeable dell or depression in the area where there used to be a heel cord

Those who are as unfortunate as Kobe Bryant to experience this injury must make an informed decision on their future treatment.   Podiatric physicians are trained to especially treat Achilles’ tendon injuries using nonsurgical or surgical treatments and can best inform patients on their options.  CPMA member physicians are uniquely qualified among medical professionals, based on their education, training, and experience. If you suspect an Achilles’ tendon injury, finding a podiatric physician is just a click away at CalPMA.org.