Age does not seem to play a role in the development of Achilles tendon problems among older athletes, nor do training and participation in walking, jumping, sprinting, running, or hurdling competitions, findings from a European study suggest.

Achilles tendon pain results from swelling or tiny tears in the tendon that connects the calf muscle to the heel bone. The exact cause of this "overuse" injury, characterized by swelling or mild to severe pain when rising onto the toes or pushing off when walking, is unknown.

The current study, reported in The American Journal of Sports Medicine, involved 110 men and 68 women who were highly trained, competitive track and field athletes participating in the European Veterans Athletics Championships held in Poland in July 2006.

Dr. Nicola Maffulli, of the London School of Medicine and Dentistry, UK, and colleagues looked at age, gender, weight, height, as well as factors associated with training and event type among the athletes, who were 54 years old on average.

The investigators also compared reports of Achilles tendon pain among low-impact athletes - those involved in walking and long-distance running - and high-impact athletes participating in sprint and middle-distance running, hurdle, jumping, and pole vault events.

Their findings showed no association between reports of Achilles tendon pain and age, weight, height, or gender among the 85 athletes who reported pain and those who did not.

Additionally, in this group of athletes, "high-impact events and training profile seems not to be associated" with Achilles pain, Maffulli told Reuters Health.

Maffulli's team calls for further investigations to identify what causes Achilles tendon pain in older athletes.