Calf injuries : Rugby Injuries

Calf injuries are another very common injury in rugby. Because of the powerful forces involved in the game, calf injuries are often sustained through scrumming, or rapid forward momentum.

What causes calf injuries?

There are two kinds of calf injury: calf strains and calf tears. Calf strains are caused by an abrupt change in speed or the changing of your running direction, things which are common in rugby. As a result, the muscles which make up the calf, called the Soleus, Gastrocnemius and Plantaris muscles, may become over-stretched or strained. The causes of calf tears are similar, although it may take a greater force, such as a more sudden change in running speed, to cause the injury.

Levels of severity

As with many injuries, there are gradable levels of severity for calf injuries, depending upon the symptoms. There are three grades of calf injury:

  • Grade one injuries are the most minor kind, where the calf muscles are merely over-stretched. Symptoms may include some pain and bruising, but will be relatively mild. Recovery may take less than three weeks.
  • Grade two injuries are more serious. Where the calf muscle has been both stretched and partly frayed. More painful than a grade one injury, you may find it more difficult to stand on your foot, and there may be swelling and moderate bruising around the foot and ankle area. Recovery may take one to two months.
  • Grade three injuries are the most serious kinds of calf injuries, and these consist of a complete splitting of the muscle tissue. Expect extreme pain, severe bruising and swelling. Recovery may take over two months.

Prevention of calf injuries

One simple way to prevent yourself from sustaining a calf injury is with a proper muscle warm-up before exercising, whether it’s training or an actual rugby game. Stretching and regularly exercising the calf muscles is a good way to strengthen them, reducing the risk of injury. However, be careful not to over-use the muscles as this in itself may lead to some degree of calf injury. In addition, there are some useful kinds of rugby equipment which may help to control and prevent any calf injury from worsening. ‘Calf sleeves’ compress your calf and keep it warm, promoting recovery from minor calf injuries.

Treatment of calf injuries

For any degree of calf injury, the most important thing is to relax the muscle. You should take the injury seriously, and avoid playing rugby again until you can do so without any pain in the calf area. If you continue playing regardless of the injury, it may gradually worsen. Do not avoid exercising the calf altogether; mild stretching exercises may be used to encourage the calf muscles to repair, but you should not do any more than a few minutes worth of stretches per day.

For grade two or three injuries, it is advisable to seek medical attention to understand the extent of the injury and the best possible treatment. Ice packs are a useful pain-relieving temporary remedy in the first instance of injury, and pain-killers are useful also. For more severe, grade three injuries surgery and physiotherapy may be necessary to return you to your physical peak.

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