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Achilles Pain In Older Athletes Not Associated With Age

July 7, 2009

A new study finds that age, training or participation in high impact sports do not appear to be a factor in the development of Achilles tendon problems among older athletes.

Pain in the Achilles tendon, which connects the calf muscle to the heel bone, typically results from small tears or swelling in the tendon.  Such “overuse” injury is often characterized by swelling and pain when rising onto the toes or pushing off when walking.  The precise cause is unknown.

Dr. Nicola Maffulli at the London School of Medicine and Dentistry and colleagues studied 178 highly trained, competitive track and field athletes who participated in the European Veterans Athletics Championships in Poland in July 2006.  

The participants included 110 men and 68 women, who were 54 years of age on average.  The researchers examined age, weight, height, gender and other factors linked with training and the type of activity performed among the athletes.

The scientists also compared reports of Achilles tendon pain in low-impact athletes — for example those who walked or were long distance runners ““ with those of high-impact athletes participating in sprint and middle-distance running, hurdle, jumping, and pole vaulting.

The results showed no association between Achilles tendon pain and age, weight, height, or gender among the 85 athletes who reported pain and those who did not.

Furthermore, “high-impact events and training profile seems not to be associated” with Achilles pain in this group of athletes, Maffulli said during an interview with Reuters.

The researchers said additional study is needed to identify the underlying cause of Achilles tendon pain in older athletes.

The study was published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine, July 2009.

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