Governor Rick Snyder will be in a cast for the next 6 weeks as he recovers from a tear of his Achilles Tendon. The Governor took up jogging as part of his Healthy Michigan Initiative and feels he definitely went too far too fast. “I tend to get fairly focused in things and I over did it” he said, telling the press “now you guys get to pick on me even more”.
“There are a couple common ways to treat Achilles tendon tears and injuries” says Dr. Hirt. “Minimal tears like the one Governor Snyder suffered can be treated non-surgically, typically with a cast. The doctor has his foot plantarflexed (bent downward; toes pointed) and the foot and lower leg are casted into this position. He is going to have to stay off the foot completely, using crutches or other device to get around.” Explained Dr. Hirt, adding ” these restrictions usually last 6-8 weeks, then the patient can slowly get back to normal activity. Sometimes physical therapy is needed to get back to 100%.”
Had the tear been larger or more damaging to the tendon, surgery would likely had been necessary to repair the tendon. Surgery is more invasive but often speeds the recovery time as the tendon can be repaired which shortens the time needed to heal. Surgery involves taking the two torn ends of tendons and suturing them back together. If there are any deficits in the tendon or if it is severely damaged, Dr. Hirt will use a synthetic tendon graft to fill gaps and strengthen tendon. After surgery, a cast and crutches are used for 6-8 weeks. “In my experience, surgery is much more reliable in healing the tendon and getting patients back to their normal activity. If it was my Achilles tendon that was torn I would opt for surgery to make sure it was fixed, so I could limit the time off the foot.”
The biggest worry about not performing surgery and only casting and using crutches is the potential that the tendon will not heal correctly and surgery will be needed later. “I have had patients that opted for cast and crutches and the tear did not heal, and we had to later do surgery which then kept them off their feet for another 6-8 weeks. So if the Governor would have been my patient, I would have recommended we fix his tendon surgically to virtually guarantee he would be back on his feet in 6-8 weeks.”