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Functional Performance and Tendon Morphology After Operative or Nonoperative Treatment of Achilles Tendon Ruptures.

BACKGROUND: While controversy remains as to the relative benefit of operative (OM) versus non-operative management (NOM) of Achilles tendon (AT) ruptures (ATR), few studies have examined the effect on high impact maneuvers such as jumping and hopping.

HYPOTHESIS/PURPOSE: The purpose of this study was to determine if functional performance including strength, jumping, and hopping outcomes differed between OM and NOM of acute ATR. The secondary objective was to assess the degree of association between AT morphology and performance outcomes.

STUDY DESIGN: Retrospective cohort with a single prospective evaluation.

METHODS: All patients were treated at an institutional secondary care center. Eligible participants (n=12 OM; 12 NOM) who were treated with OM or NOM of ATR within three weeks of injury were evaluated a minimum 20 months following ATR. AT length, thickness and gastrocnemius muscle thickness were assessed with B-mode ultrasound. Isokinetic plantar flexor strength, hop tests and countermovement and drop jumps were completed. Two-way ANOVAS were completed on all tests with unilateral values, independent t-tests were used for bilateral outcomes, and linear regressions were completed to assess the relationship between normalized AT length and performance.

RESULTS: Affected limb AT was elongated and thickened (p\<0.01), gastrocnemius was atrophied (p\< 0.01) and angle-specific plantar flexor torque was reduced at 120°/s when measured at 20° plantar flexion (p = 0.028). Single leg drop vertical jump was higher in OM (p = 0.015) with no difference for hop and jump tests. AT length was related to plantar flexor torque but had no relationship with hopping performance.

CONCLUSIONS: Hop test performance was maintained despite plantarflexion weakness, gastrocnemius atrophy, and AT elongation. This may be the result of compensatory movement patterns. AT length holds limited explanatory power in plantar flexor strength, although this relationship should be evaluated further.

LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: Level III.

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