What is a Calf strain?

This injury involves a tear to one or more of the muscles present at the back of the lower leg.

This occurs when the calf muscle contacts under high load that can be caused by repetitive activity or a high force. This causes a strain in the muscle or a tear.

These can be classified as follows:

  • Calf strains range from grade 1 to grade 3 and are classified as follows:
  • Grade 1 Tear: a small number of fibers are torn resulting in some pain, but allowing full function.
  • Grade 2 Tear: a significant number of fibers are torn with moderate loss of function.
  • Grade 3 Tear: all muscle fibers are ruptured resulting in major loss of function. These usually require surgical repair.
  • The majority of calf strains are grade 2.

What and where is the calf muscle?

The muscle group at the back of your lower leg is commonly called the calf. The calf comprises of 2 major muscles one of which originates from above the knee joint (Gastrocnemius) the other of which originates from below the knee joint (Soleus). Both of these muscles insert into the heel bone via the Achilles tendon. There is a third muscle that is evolving out of humans called the Plantaris.

What the causes of Calf Strains?

These injuries occur when the calf muscle is forced to contract suddenly i.e. going to jump, lunge change direction quickly or run. Usually observed in sports involving running or change of direction (sudden). Examples where it can be commonly seen are tennis, squash, Rugby, football, cricket. Occasionally they occur due to gradual wear and tear associated with overuse. This may be due to activities such as repetitive jumping, distance running or walking excessively (especially up hills or on uneven surfaces).

What are the signs and symptoms?

Usually feel a sharp pain or pull when they go to initiate any of the above movements. If it is severe activity may not be continued.

  • If severe weight bearing may be compromised.
  • Pain with walking, stairs and running.
  • Swelling, tenderness and bruising are likely to be observed.

What are the contributing factors?

There are several factors which can predispose patients to developing a calf strain. These need to be assessed and corrected with direction from a physiotherapist. Such as:

  • poor calf flexibility
  • poor bio-mechanics or foot posture
  • ankle joint stiffness
  • calf weakness
  • inadequate rehabilitation following a previous calf strain
  • neural tightness

What are the treatment options?

Like all injuries follow the RICE protocol and see a physiotherapist ASAP.

Disclaimer: The information is for informative purposes and not to replace proper treatment. For more information or to book an appointment please contact Sydney Physios and Allied Health Services