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The Achilles tendon connects the back of the heel to the leg muscles of the calf. It allows you to flex your ankle, thus enabling you to walk, run, jump and walk on your toes. The scientific name for the Achilles tendon is the calcaneal tendon. The human body has many tendons that allow us to move. The Achilles tendon is the largest, thickest and strongest of all the tendons in the body. It is subject to supporting all of your body weight, and during strenuous activities, it may be responsible for handling up to three to five times your normal weight.
The Achilles tendon is easily injured, especially in athletes. It can also be injured during routine and simple exercises when a person fails to stretch or warm up properly. An injury involving the Achilles tendon is extremely painful and requires a long period of time to heal.
The most common injuries to the Achilles tendon are tendonitis and a tendon rupture. Tendonitis of the Achilles tendon is an inflammation of the tendon characterized by soreness, stiffness, general pain and localized fatigue. Tendonitis is usually caused by overuse or misuse of the tendon, but can be due to many different factors. Tendonitis progressively worsens if it is not treated.
A ruptured Achilles tendon is a partial or complete tear of the tendon. When this happens, a person will experience excruciating pain and be completely unable to move the foot in the case of a complete tear. A ruptured Achilles tendon is most common in athletes who quickly increase their physical exertion and in non athletes who suffer an accident.
The Achilles tendon is named for a mythological hero in Homer’s Illiad, a famous ancient Greek epic poem. As a baby, a warrior named Achilles was bathed by his mother in a magical river that promised immortality. Achilles became virtually invincible except for his ankle. Because his mother grasped his ankle as she dangled him in the water, this part of his body remained unexposed and vulnerable. A fatal wound to Achilles' tendon in a battle for Troy was the cause of his demise.