The soleus and gastrocnemius muscles make up the calf complex or ‘baby cow’ as it’s sometimes called. Calf strains are quite a common injury that we see in the clinic. These can occur during sprinting (such as running after a loose ball in soccer), during a strong push or drive movement (such as scrumming in Rugby), and also due to jumping and landing (such as in netball or basketball). Small grade 1 strains take 10-21 days to settle down, grade 2 injuries about 3-5 weeks and bigger grade 3 with muscle retraction (common) can take closer to 8 weeks to recover.
Treatment and management
Ice and compression are the first line of treatment initially and for the severe strains, crutches may be needed. Physiotherapy treatment involves soft tissue releases, dry needling and electrotherapy. Strengthening and stretching exercises follow and these are gradually increased to include jumping and gradual return to jogging/ sprinting.
Unfortunately, calves can be quite stubborn and can re-tear or manifest themselves in the way that they just don’t feel 100% when returning to sports. Hence, it is extremely important to do the work and follow the program set by your physiotherapist and only progress to the next step of rehabilitation when advised to do so. Too often, we see clients who improve and do well then decide to push things along a bit just to ‘try it out’ despite being told not to. That is the difference between missing 4 weeks and 10 weeks.
It is always wise to follow your rehab programme right through to the end with your physiotherapist to prevent re-strains. Otherwise, one may fall into the chronic re-occurring calf tear category. That topic is for another blog but if you have ever had a calf strain and not feeling 100% then give us a call and we will get you back to where you want to be.