Achilles tendon rupture

Last updated: July 11, 2023

Summarytoggle arrow icon

The Achilles tendon is the largest tendon in the human body and provides the attachment of the converged soleus and gastrocnemius muscles to the calcaneus. Achilles tendon ruptures often result from indirect trauma related to sports and exercise and primarily affect men between the ages of 30–50 years. Pre-existing degenerative conditions and certain drugs (e.g., local glucocorticoid injections) have been linked with an increased risk of complete or partial Achilles tendon rupture. Patients may experience a sudden onset of sharp pain in the tendon at the back of the ankle, usually accompanied by a popping or snapping sound or sensation. A positive Thompsons test may be followed by an ultrasound or MRI to confirm the Achilles tendon rupture. Both conservative and surgical treatments are recommended. Surgical treatment is associated with a lower risk of Achilles tendon re-rupture. However, complications linked to surgery, such as infection and hemorrhage, must be taken into consideration.

Epidemiologytoggle arrow icon

  • General: Most common in people that are active in sports or recreational activity
  • Peak incidence: 30–50 years
  • Sex: >


Epidemiological data refers to the US, unless otherwise specified.

Etiologytoggle arrow icon

Classificationtoggle arrow icon

  • Complete rupture (most common)
  • Less common

Clinical featurestoggle arrow icon

Normal plantar flexion does not rule out a suspected Achilles tendon tear. Always compare the symptomatic side with the opposite normal side.


Diagnosticstoggle arrow icon

  • Mainly a clinical diagnosis
  • Imaging is indicated to evaluate the extent of the injury and/or to exclude other suspected pathologies.

Treatmenttoggle arrow icon

Both conservative and surgical approaches are recommended, but the indications for conservative vs surgical treatment are controversial.


Complicationstoggle arrow icon

We list the most important complications. The selection is not exhaustive.

Prognosistoggle arrow icon

  • Excellent prognosis with early treatment
  • Repair of complicated cases (e.g., following re-rupture) has a poorer outcome.

Referencestoggle arrow icon

  1. Mazzone MF, Mccue T. Common Conditions of the Achilles Tendon. Am Fam Physician. 2002; 65 (9): p.1805-1811.
  2. Lewis T, Cook J. Fluoroquinolones and Tendinopathy: A Guide for Athletes and Sports Clinicians and a Systematic Review of the Literature. J Athl Train. 2014; 49 (3): p.422-427.doi: 10.4085/1062-6050-49.2.09 . | Open in Read by QxMD
  3. Miller L, Spittler J, Khodaee M, Bravman JT, Lyon C, Hoffecker L. Management of Acute Achilles Tendon Rupture. Am Fam Physician. 2015; 91 (11): p.794-800.

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 Evidence-based content, created and peer-reviewed by physicians. Read the disclaimer