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Patients with ruptured Achilles tendon given chance to try new Warwick study

People who rupture their Achilles tendon are being given the chance to take part in a new University of Warwick study aimed at improving recovery and rehabilitation. 

Thirty patients being treated at the University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust will test the effectiveness of different types of orthotics (walking boots) containing heel wedges to see which work best.

Research physiotherapist at the University of Warwick Medical School, Rebecca Kearney, has been awarded more than £124,000 by medical research charity the Arthritis Research Campaign.

The four-year project will investigate ways of improving treatment of this common condition that affects over 110,000 people every year in the UK. 

Rupture of the Achilles tendon usually occurs in men aged between 30 and 40 years who play sport intermittently, but it can affect men and women of any age, during normal activities such as walking down the stairs. 

Traditionally people with a ruptured Achilles were treated in a plaster cast from knee to foot and were unable to bear weight on the cast for up to three months. 

Rebecca Kearney said: “This allowed the tendon to heal but resulted in wasting of the muscles in the lower leg. Nowadays special boots called orthoses are more often used, as research has shown that it is safe to put the full weight on the healing tendon without damage – and with reduced muscle wastage.” 

Mrs Kearney will now investigate which is the best and most effective type of orthotic boot; a plastic rigid boot with wedges in the heels worn for up to eight weeks, or a more flexible and less cumbersome version. Ultrasound and gait analysis techniques will be used to measure the results. Her work will lead to a clinical trial comparing various types of orthotics boots.  

She said: “Hopefully this research will allow patients to return to their normal work and leisure activities as quickly as possible, with the least chance of further injury to the tendon. Accelerated rehabilitation techniques are increasingly being used for sportsmen and women, but there is no reason why these same techniques can’t be applied to members of the general public who sustain similar injuries.” 

Notes to editors
For more information contact Kelly Parkes-Harrison, Communications Officer, University of Warwick, 02476 150483, 07824 540863, k.e.parkes@warwick.ac.uk