Study: Achilles tendon can't heal itself

Feb. 12, 2013 at 3:10 PM
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BETHESDA, Md., Feb. 12 (UPI) -- Researchers writing in a U.S. biology journal say Achilles tendon injuries can be sports career killers because the tendon doesn't repair itself.

"Tendon injury is a very common disease, which hinders many people from enjoying the numerous benefits of sports and recreational activities," Katja Heinemeier from the Institute of Sports Medicine at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark said.

Heinemeier and colleagues, writing in the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology Journal, said they made the finding about tendon tissue by taking advantage of carbon-14 spikes resulting from post-WWII nuclear bomb tests. A study of Achilles tendons from people who had lived during the period found the high carbon-14 levels of the time had remained in the tendon tissue decades later.

That finding suggests the rate of tissue renewal is extremely slow in the tendon if it exists at all, the researchers said.

In fact, the results showed the Achilles tendon stays the same after adulthood is reached and growing ends, they said.

"While the nation waits to see if another Olympic skier or NFL rookie recovers from serious tendon or ligament damage, this report serves as a cautionary tale to temper expectations," said Gerald Weissmann, editor in chief of the FASEB Journal.

"When it comes to our tendons, what we have may be all we have. Like our teeth, it's far better and less painful in the long term to protect them throughout your lifetime than it is to count on a successful recovery."

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