Following his October 2015 surgery for a torn Achilles tendon, Arian Foster—long-time Houston Texans running back—has signed with the Miami Dolphins.

football player
Achilles tendon injuries are common for NFL players.
Learn more:
Diagnosing Achilles Pain

Once considered the top running back in the NFL, will Foster be able to return to his old form?

See Achilles Tendonitis and Tendon Injuries

Understanding Achilles tendon tears

The Achilles tendon is a band of tissue that connects your heel bone to muscles in your calf—making it essential for walking and running.

  • An Achilles tear is typically the result of a single, traumatic event involving a rapid change of speed or direction. You will often feel or hear a “pop” at the time of the tear, followed by intense pain.
  • Foster's injury did not involve physical contact—he took a quick step towards the defense and immediately collapsed.

Understanding Achilles tendon surgery

There are 2 common types of Achilles tendon surgeries:

  • Gastrocnemius recession. The calf muscle is lengthened to reduces stress on your Achilles tendon and thereby encourage healing.
  • Debridement. The damaged portion of your tendon is removed to enable the growth of healthy tissue. In general, if less than half of your Achilles is damaged it will be secured to your bone with anchors. If more than half is damaged, a tendon will be transferred from your big toe to reinforce your Achilles.

Foster has chosen to not publicly discuss the nature of his surgery or the extent of his injury.

See Injections and Surgery to Treat Achilles Pain

How will Foster play?

One 2009 study found that 33 percent of all NFL players did not return to football after an Achilles tear. The study also reported that running backs who returned to football saw significantly decreased athletic performance levels.1

It’s safe to assume the Dolphins are aware of these complications, as Foster was signed to only a 1-year deal.

But don’t bet against Foster—he’s successfully returned from a meniscus tear and a torn groin muscle.

Learn More:

Diagnosing Achilles Pain

Achilles Tendon Conditions Signs and Symptoms

References:

  1. Epidemiology and outcomes of Achilles tendon ruptures in the National Football League. Foot Ankle Spec. 2009 Dec;2(6):283-6. doi: 10.1177/1938640009351138. Epub 2009 Oct 13.