The delayed 2021 Olympics had a variety of drama and memorable moments however; one athlete in particular really impressed and puzzled me. It is always entertaining to see how effortless the athletes make their movements and performances but something was different for Russian gymnast Artur Dalaloyan. Dalaloyan managed to capture a gold medal only 3 months removed from repairing a torn Achilles tendon. To put it in perspective, it usually takes a person a minimum of 6 months to a year to regain strength and function.
The Achilles tendon is vital for everyday activities and function because it connects two large muscles of our lower leg to our heel. Tendons connect muscle to bone and are responsible for acting like a spring to transfer/disperse energy. Every time we walk, we have to push off our foot and utilize the calf muscles and Achilles tendon. For Dalaloyan to be back to sprinting, jumping, hoping, and landing within 3 months post surgery is truly a remarkable recovery and even more impressive that he was still able to perform at the highest level. I am by no means an expert on gymnastics but watching his performance was painful. He was laboring and with his heavily taped left ankle and he was forced to primarily land on his right leg. This uneven amount of load through his right leg puts him at risk for a similar injury on the right. Also, with Dalaloyan’s ankle taped to limit motion, his body will most likely compensate and allow for excessive motion in the left knee which creates another injury risk. Fortunately, Artur Dalaloyan did not further injure himself and he accomplished a lifelong goal of competing and medaling in the Olympics. Hopefully in time, more will come out regarding his rehab and how he was able to push the boundaries of normal healing. Dalaloyan’s ability to heal is an enigma and I do not recommend comparing any orthopedic tendon repair to his recovery, yet; you can marvel at his work ethic and commitment to his team.
Brian Becker PT, DPT, SFMA, Functional Dry Needling, Certified Sportsmetrics