Calf muscle tear
Rupture of the gastrocnemius muscle

A calf muscle tear is the result of a (partial) rupture of the gastrocnemius (calf) muscle. The tear is the result of a sudden, powerful contraction of the muscle against high resistance.

lower leg calf muscle gastrocnemius calf anatomy

A calf muscle tear is one of the most common injuries in sports.

Description of the condition

The muscle that defines the calf is called the gastrocnemius muscle. A calf muscle tear occurs during contraction of the muscle. Usually the tear is located along the inner (medial) part of the gastrocnemius, at the site of the muscle-tendon transition.

Cause and origin

In general, a calf muscle tear will occur during exercise. A classic example is that the patient will feel as if a small stone or twig hit the calf during exercise. This is the moment that the muscle tear occurred.

Signs & symptoms

  • A sharp pain is felt in the calf immediately after the injury.
  • The patient is usually unable to walk any further because of the pain.
  • Standing on the toes of the affected leg is painful.
  • Stretching the calf muscle is painful.
  • The calf can be slightly swollen.
  • The muscle tear is sensitive to touch.
  • In the days after the injury, a bruise (haematoma) can be visible under the skin where the tear occurred.

Diagnosis

Treatment

It is important to keep the weight of the muscle in the first days to a week after the injury. This can then be followed by light weight-bearing on the muscle under the supervision of the physiotherapist. Using an exercise programme to increase strength and mobility, the muscle is then trained until the sports activity can be resumed. Recovery takes approximately 6 to 10 weeks. It is irresponsible to resume sports activities before this time and without gradually increasing the training load.

Advice


You can check your symptoms using the online physiotherapy check or make an appointment with a physiotherapy practice in your area.

References
Lohman, A.H.M. (2004). Vorm en beweging. Leerboek van het bewegingsapparaat van de mens. Houten: Bohn Stafleu van Loghum.
Nugteren, K. van & Winkel, D. (2008). Onderzoek en behandeling van spieraandoeningen en kuitpijn. Houten: Bohn Stafleu van Loghum.
Theunissen, J., Eekhof, J. & Neven, A.K. (2008). Zweepslag van de kuit. Huisarts en Wetenschap. 2008; 11:572-574.

lower leg calf muscle gastrocnemius calf anatomy

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