Tough times ahead for Ipswich Town loan striker but the future is still bright, say Ipswich Hospital doctors

Ipswich Town v Norwich City FC.
Sky Bet Championship.
Luke Varney is taken off with an injury.

Ipswich Town v Norwich City FC. Sky Bet Championship. Luke Varney is taken off with an injury. - Credit: Archant

Achilles tendon ruptures are relatively common, with a hospital like Ipswich treating about 100-150 per year. Most occur in sports activities such as squash, badminton or football between the ages of 30-50. The most famous footballer is probably David Beckham who suffered the injury when playing for Milan.

It is the thickest and strongest tendon in the body, joining the calf muscles to the heel bone and allows us to push up during walking, running or jumping. It has to transmit huge forces, many times greater than our body weight when jumping.

Classically patients say: “I thought someone had kicked me in the back of the heel but there was no-one near me!” Just as Luke Varney did.

It is immediately very difficult to walk and there is pain and swelling at the back of the calf just above the heel bone. There is a gap in the tendon and it is not possible to stand on tip toe.

Most people are seen in Emergency departments the same or next day and are put in a cast or boot with the foot pointing downwards and crutches.

For the majority of patients, operations are not required as the tendon can heal well if the two tendon ends are kept together with the foot pointing down to start with and then allow controlled movement over the next two months followed by physiotherapy for another 3 months or so.

Those patients who present to medical services more than two-three days after the injury may need an operation to be sure that the tendon ends can be brought together.

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For athletes whose sports depend on jumping power, such injuries can be potentially career ending. As a result, operations are often undertaken to give extra security to the repair, allow rapid rehabilitation and possibly the best chance of full power and a return to sport.

There are various operative techniques which are relatively straightforward from mini incision to full open repair with the basic aim of getting the ends of the tendon together and providing internal strong suture support. Match fit recovery can take three-six months, after lots of physiotherapy input.

The reason for operating needs to be carefully weighed against the risks associated with surgery in this part of the body.

This article was written by Dr Catherine Lester - Sports and Exercise Medicine Specialist trainee, and Mr Mark Bowditch, Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon, Knee, Ankle & Sports Surgeon, at Ipswich Hospital NHS Trust.

Luke Varney is expected to be sidelined for a minimum of six months after rupturing his Achilles tendon in Saturday’s 1-1 home draw with Norwich City in the first leg of the Championship play-off semi-finals.

The 32-year-old forward suffered the unfortunate injury pushing off into a sprint with no-one around him. He was stretchered off half an hour into the game, spent the weekend in an Ipswich hospital before being transferred to London for surgery.

The hard-working front man, out of contract in the summer, has produced some impressive displays during his time on loan from Blackburn Rovers.

“Luke had the operation yesterday afternoon and it went fine,” Town physio Matt Byard said. “He has ruptured his Achilles and, with an injury like that, you are looking at a minimum of six months recovery time.”