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J Bone Joint Surg Am. 1997 Dec;79(12):1799-808.

Functional bracing for rupture of the Achilles tendon. Clinical results and analysis of ground-reaction forces and temporal data.

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University of Rochester Medical Center and Ithaca College Department of Physical Therapy, New York 14623, USA.


Fifteen patients who had sustained a rupture of the Achilles tendon were managed non-operatively with use of a functional bracing protocol, and clinical and functional performance measures were assessed after a mean duration of follow-up of thirty-one months (range, twenty-four to forty-five months). An age and gender-matched group of fifteen subjects was assessed to provide normative data for the comparison of side-to-side differences. Numerical scores were generated on the basis of subjective responses to a questionnaire, clinical measurements of the range of motion of the ankle and the circumference of the calf, and the results of the Thompson squeeze test and a single-limb heel-rise test. A 100-point scoring system was used to categorize the outcome as excellent, good, fair, or poor. In addition, ground-reaction forces and temporal data were assessed during functional dynamic activities that included walking, a single-limb power hop, and a thirty-second single-limb heel-rise endurance test. The result was graded as excellent for three patients, good for nine, fair for two, and poor for one. An increase in passive dorsiflexion of the treated ankle was the only clinical measure that was significantly different between the groups (p = 0.02). This increase in dorsiflexion was positively correlated with vertical force output between the mid-stance and terminal-stance phases of gait (r = 0.40, p = 0.05). With the numbers available, we could detect no significant differences between the groups with regard to the kinetic or temporal variables that were measured during functional dynamic activities. Patients who generated less peak vertical force and vertical height during the single-limb power-hop test tended to have poorer clinical scores. We believe that non-operative functional bracing may prove to be a viable alternative to operative intervention or use of a plaster cast for the treatment of acute ruptures of the Achilles tendon. The goals of treatment are to prevent the musculoskeletal changes that are associated with immobilization, to reduce the time needed for rehabilitation, and to facilitate an early return to work and to preinjury activities.

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