Background Achilles tendinopathy is a serious and frequently occurring problem, especially in elite athletes. Recent research has suggested a role for the plantaris tendon in non-insertional Achilles tendinopathy.
Aim To assess whether excising the plantaris tendon improved the symptoms of Achilles tendinopathy in elite athletes.
Methods This prospective consecutive case series study investigated 32 elite athletes who underwent plantaris tendon excision using a mini-incision technique to treat medially located pain associated with non-insertional Achilles tendinopathy. Preoperative and postoperative visual analogue scores (VAS) for pain and the foot and ankle outcome score (FAOS) as well as time to return to sport and satisfaction scores were assessed.
Results At a mean follow-up of 22.4 months (12–48), 29/32 (90%) of athletes were satisfied with the results. Thirty of the 32 athletes (94%) returned to sport at a mean of 10.3 weeks (5–27). The mean VAS score improved from 5.8 to 0.8 (p<0.01) and the mean FAOS improved in all domains (p<0.01). Few complications were seen, four athletes experienced short-term stiffness and one had a superficial wound infection.
Conclusions The plantaris tendon may be responsible for symptoms in some athletes with non-insertional Achilles tendinopathy. Excision carries a low risk of complications and may provide significant improvement in symptoms enabling an early return to elite-level sports.
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