Calf Strain : Tennis Injuries

The muscle at the back lower part of the leg is the ‘calf muscle’. The calf muscle is actually one of three muscles called triceps surae connected to the foot’s heal bone or calcaneus, and the achilles tendon. The other two muscles are named soleus and gastrocnemius. The tibia nerve also stimulates motion in the area of the calf. When ejecting or striking the heel on and off the court in tennis, these muscles interact for the lifting and striking motion. If the muscles are forced and stretched beyond capacity, the result can be a tear in the muscle tissue, pulled muscle or calf strain.

Symptoms of Calf Strain

The severity of pull, strain, or tear to the calf muscle is identified in grades of symptoms. If, after trying to return an opponent’s ball, you feel dull aching pain in the calf muscle when contracting or extending it, combined with stiffness and cramp, then you have incurred a grade one calf strain. If the pain is more immediate and striking, feeling sore to the touch, it may be a grade two calf strain. Grade three calf strain is characterised by severe pain and limited use of the leg. The tissue may swell through the calf muscle layer into a lump causing bruising.

Causes of Calf Strain

Calf strain is caused by inadequate warming up before starting to play tennis, or by sudden acceleration when the feet roll over too much (also called pronation) as players try to slice the ball. Magnesium, calcium and mineral deficiency in the body, and dehydration from not enough fluid intake during the game, can also lead to calf strains. Falling on the tennis court when trying to reach out with the racquet can also result in tears to the calf muscle as it pulls away from the achilles tendon.

Treatment of Calf Strain

Players often treat their calf injuries initially through what is known as the PRICE Protocol to reduce further injury by protecting the calf muscle; resting the muscle; ice-packing the calf site; compressing the strain; and elevating the leg to reduce swelling and inflammation. Anti-inflammatory medicine such as Ibuprofen can also be used to reduce pain and swelling.

If self-help treatments of rest, ice-packs, and painkillers don’t alleviate pain over the longer term, it is recommended to have physical examination by your local doctor who will discuss your symptoms and treatments with you. You may be referred to a physiotherapist to learn how to best move your feet when playing tennis, to help you build strength in your muscles, or to have alternative treatments and massage.

Prevention of Calf Strain

Most important is to react responsibly to pain in the calf by consulting your doctor, physiotherapist or a tennis sport professional to determine the extent of your calf injury, the appropriate treatment, and the supports and diet available to prevent damage and re-injury to the calf. There are heel cushions or insoles support, and neoprene calf sleeves available for sports like tennis to support the foot or leg, reducing pressure on the calf muscle and preventing further injury. A physiotherapist or sports professional can discuss these supports with you. Being conscious of your diet’s carbohydrate intake and consuming adequate fluids can increase energy for muscle movements that can also reduce strain on the calf muscle.

© Medic8® | All Rights Reserved