What is a Ruptured Achilles Tendon?

When David Haye feebly fell through the ropes and out of the ring at a packed o2 Arena last Saturday night, it was a final, undeserved indignity for a fighter that displayed massive amounts of heart.

You could sit and debate the ‘what if’s’ of the fight with Tony Bellew until you’re blue in the face. But one thing’s for sure; when a seemingly innocuous giving way of the foot in the 6th round rendered David Haye essentially handicapped, what followed was one of the most impressive feats of toughness and bravery displayed in a boxing ring.

That giving way of the foot was the moment Haye suffered one of the most serious injuries in the professional sporting world. A ruptured Achilles tendon is one of the bigger injury boogiemen sportsmen are looking to avoid, much the same as any other ill-fated no contact injury.

But what exactly is it? And just how brave, or foolish, was David Haye for continuing to fight?

Allow us to enlighten you…

What is it?

A ruptured Achilles tendon occurs when you tear the tissue that connects your calf muscle to your heel bone. A complete or even partial tear can be considered a rupture. This makes your ankle feel weak and makes it difficult to walk.

After Haye suffered the injury you could obviously see he had trouble walking, and look closer and we can see exactly how. Virtually unable to lift his back heel, Haye was unable to spring off his back foot severely limiting his ability to generate enough power to trouble a hardened Bellew.

This is because the calf muscle connects to a bone in the foot called the calcaneum at the back of the ankle. Usually when your achilles pulls on your heel, it will raise and the foot will go up on to the tip toe. The same motion that propels your feet when you walk, run…or box.


It’s fair to say that first off, at some point it’s going to hurt. That pain may be lessened for someone with adrenaline pumping through their veins like a boxer in the middle of a fight, but you can bet they’ll feel the full effect sooner or later.

A sudden, sharp pain could be accompanied by a snapping or popping sound(I squirmed too). It may feel as though you’ve been hit or kicked on the back of your leg even though no one’s near you.

The pain may then settle into a dull ache or go completely. You might also experience some swelling in the calf area and be unable to put your full weight on your ankle, stand on your tip toes or climb stairs.

If you only partially rupture it, some pain and stiffness may come quite quickly but you may not hear a snapping sound and you may be able to walk on your ankle, so it’s important to get checked out


Recovery Time


Recovery times from ruptured Achilles tend to vary depending on the severity of the tear, for example whether it’s a partial or full rupture.

Once any cast has been removed a period of passive exercises aimed at regaining mobility in the joint is the suggested therapy. After several weeks more strenuous resistance exercises can be used.

Return to routine activities usually occurs at four to six months, but recovery is always dependent on the patient’s motivation desired future activity levels and the quality of the program.

Other Famous Achilles Ruptures  

There have been other famous examples of ruptured Achilles tendons that might give some pointers on how long David Haye might spend out of the ring.

Kobe Bryant

The former Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard and NBA legend famously fell foul an Achilles rupture in April of 2013 while playing against the Golden State Warrior. The 18-time NBA all-star would not  return for 240 days, or nearly 8 months.

Speaking of the injury, Bryant remembered:

“When I first did it, right there, I was trying to feel if the tendon is there or if it’s gone,”

“I realized it wasn’t there. I was literally trying to pull the tendon up, so hopefully I could walk and kind of hobble through the last two and a half minutes and try to play.”

David Beckham

Back in March 2010 David Beckham suffered a ruptured achilles while playing for AC Milan on loan from LA Galaxy which kept him out for 8 months.

Speaking of his injury, Beckham recalls:

“It was like being hit by a hockey puck,

“I thought someone was behind me and had kicked me. I looked round, obviously there was no one there.

“And then I saw my foot. It was just hanging. And then I felt down there and there was a hole and I knew straight away what I’d done.”



Author | Chris Coates

Tags:  achilles tendon ankle injury ankle tear david haye ruptured achilles tony bellew

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