Calf strains commonly occur at the medial head of the gastrocnemius muscle and are often seen in tennis players over the age of 40. This strain is caused by the forced upward motion of the toes whilst the knee is straight or by the forced extension of the knee while the toes are pointing upwards. A calf strain can also occur when there is muscular fatigue and cramping.
Signs and symptoms
As the strain happens, an individual will feel a tear in the calf muscle, together with pain, swelling, stiffness and reduced function. Later, the lower leg, ankle and foot will become discoloured due to internal bleeding.
Initial treatment includes rest, ice, compression and elevation. In cases of severe muscle strains, one may need crutches to allow the muscle time to heal. Gentle stretching of the calf muscle should be done on a regular basis. Once sufficient healing has occurred, appropriate and progressive strengthening exercises should be prescribed by a biokineticist, so that re-injury does not occur when one returns to daily activities or sport. If dehydration was causing muscle cramp, leading to the strain, then the dehydration must be treated with sufficient fluid intake. Stretching and strengthening of the calf must also be done to reduce muscle cramping.
Foundations of Athletic Training: Prevention, Assessment and Management