Calf muscle injuries are extremely common in football and in fact in any sport that involves high-speed running and lots of accelerating and decelerating. These injuries commonly occur during high speed actions, but can also occur during slow movements, especially when the calf is fatigued.
What is the calf?
The calf is made up of three muscles that all come together to form the achilles tendon going into the heel - the gastrocnemius, soleus and plantaris. These muscles work to create the movement of pointing the toes in various different leg positions.
What are the symptoms of a calf strain?
Those who suffer a calf strain tend to describe a sudden pain that is felt in the calf area, and often report a feeling of a “pop” or a feeling as though they have been kicked in the back of the leg. Depending on the severity of the muscle strain, there may be pain during everyday activities and possibly some bruising.
How does a Sports Therapist assess a suspected calf strain?
To assess a calf strain, we look at several different factors to confirm a working diagnosis of a calf strain:
Observation of any differences between the injured and uninjured side.
Looking at the range of movement in the ankle.
Palpating or feeling through the calf itself to identify location of the injury.
Carrying out some functional testing to determine the severity of the injury.
What are the biggest risk factors for calf strains?
Age is one of the biggest risk factors for calf strains, meaning that the older you get, the more you may need to do to prevent such injuries. In addition, having a previous calf strain puts you at a much greater risk of a recurrent calf injury, meaning the rehabilitation you do should you sustain this injury needs to be prioritised.
How do we rehabilitate this injury?
The initial period after the injury should include a combination of relative rest from football and the use of ice, compression and elevation in line with guidelines for soft tissue injuries. Early loading of the muscle is important, where static contractions of the calf in the early stages can be progressed to more challenging exercises. Once the injured calf does not have a strength deficit to the uninjured calf, that is when a gradual re-introduction to football training and matches can begin.
Here at SV Sports Therapy, we can assist in the assessment, treatment and rehabilitation of calf muscle strains by using a variety of treatment methods and devising a bespoke exercise rehabilitation plan to get you back on the pitch performing at your best