Don’t Get Put on the Sidelines: Avoiding Calf Strains

Athletes tend to not think too much on their calves, aside from how awesome the muscle group looks when finely toned. However, it may be easily ignored, but it is one of the most important muscles in the leg, and when you injure it, the calf won’t let you forget it. Formed from the combination of the soleus and the gastrocnemius muscles, straining these muscles is one of the most common sports injuries for athletes, and athletes are at risk each time they push off. When stretched beyond capacity, the muscle fibers tear away from the tendon, creating a nagging paint hat will keep you down. With three grades of severity, calf strain can range from mild tears and symptoms to a complete rupture that may require surgery.

don't get put on the sidelines: avoiding calf strains

How Does Calf Strain Happens?

When playing sports, calf strains happen because the muscles are asked to do more than they are used to doing. However, other factors can be involved such as general fatigue from too much practice, inadequate stretching before play, and playing in extreme weather conditions. With calf strains, they occur when the foot is suddenly bent upwards, stretching the muscle beyond its limits.

Scenarios where calf strain can occur:

  • A sprinter comes out too hard from the starting blocks.

  • A soccer player runs full tilt towards the ball on a slippery field.

  • A tennis player rapidly changes directions in the back court.

  • A runner pushes acceleration uphill.

Symptoms and Treatment

Depending on the severity of the injury, pain may be intense from the onset or it could slowly intensify after the exercise is done. Football players, soccer players, tennis players, hurdlers, runners, and sprinters are all in a high risk group for this injury, with men being more prone than women.

Symptoms include:

  • Sudden pain in the back of the lower leg between the knee and heel that lasts longer than a few hours

  • Aching pain when pushing off or standing on your toes

  • Bruising with no other reason such as accidental impact

  • Muscle weakness

  • Gap or indention in the calve muscles

  • Long-lasting stiffness

Grade 3 tears may require surgery, but for lesser grade injuries, rest is the best medicine so the tear can heal naturally. Ice and heat should be used to help treat any pain and soreness as well as elevation to help treat swelling. Elastic bandages and compression socks that cover the calf should also be used to reinforce the muscle for everyday activities like walking as well as to keep the swelling to a minimum.


Unfortunately, athletes who have previously sustained calf strains are much more likely to have it happen again than those who have never had this injury. However, there are a few quick tips to help this injury from happening again and taking you out of your game.

  • Do not increase exercise frequency, intensity, or duration beyond 10 percent each week.

  • Consult a qualified coach or trainer on proper pre-sport stretching exercises for the area and be sure to do them before each session of play.

  • Allow extra time for stretching and warm-ups in times of colder weather.

  • Wear athletic shoes that have extra support to reduce calf muscle stress.

  • Consider a change to compression socks to provide extra support to the calf area.

  • Change athletic shoes every 300 to 500 miles of running or when significant wear begins to appear.

  • Avoid running on uneven or wet surfaces.

Is calf strain or another sports-related injury keeping you firmly benched on the sidelines? It doesn’t have to. Contact us today to learn more about the wide array of products at Mueller Sports Medicine to help you heal faster and better in order to get you back out there doing what you love as soon as possible.