The calf is the general name given to the two muscles (gastrocnemius and soleus) which are found in the back of the lower leg and together form into the Achilles tendon. The larger gastrocnemius muscle is superficial to the deeper soleus muscle and this means it is more prone to muscle tearing. A calf tear/strain typically occurs when the muscle is explosively and forcibly contracted whilst in a stretched position. Athletes that play sports such as tennis and squash have the highest risk of sustaining this injury. These sports all involve accelerating from a stationary position, which causes the heel to drop suddenly and results in overstretching of the calf. Inadequate warm up, fatigue/overuse, poor lower limb biomechanics and not allowing enough recovery time between training/activities, are all common factors which can cause this injury.
Signs and Symptoms:
- Pain is sudden and severe with a feeling of snapping or popping sensation in the involved muscle.
- Swelling during the first few hours after injury.
- Bruising or discoloration of the injured area over the first few days.
- Pain at rest or once muscle is cooled after injury.
- Pain when the specific muscle or the joint in relation to that muscle is used.
- Weakness of the muscle or tendons.
- Inability to use the muscle at all causing altered gait or limping.