What Are the Treatments for a Torn Calf Muscle?

Calf muscles consist of the larger and superficial medial and lateral gastrocnemius muscles and the smaller and deeper soleus muscle. According to the website Sports Injury Clinic, there are three grades for muscle strains. Grade one involves a minor tear, involving up to 10 percent of fibers, while grade two involves up to 90 percent and grade three involves more than 90 percent, also known as a full rupture. Since unconditioned tennis players commonly tear their calf muscles, the term “tennis leg” applies.

Conservative Treatment

According to the website Sports Medicine of Atlanta, the calf muscle becomes significantly stretched when the ankle bends acutely upward. Any movement involving a sudden change in direction that forces the ankle to bend upward acutely may tear the calf muscle. Tennis leg usually occurs in middle-age athletes who have muscle atrophy and degeneration due to aging and inactivity. The injured area becomes very tender. Consequently, the athlete walks on her toes to prevent upward bending of the ankle, which stretches the injured area and causes pain.

Essential immediate treatment, as recommended by Sports Injury Clinic includes rest and applying a cold pack to the calf area for 15 to 20 minutes four times a day for several days after the injury. Applying a compression bandage from the toes to above the tear limits the swelling as well as elevating the leg higher than the heart. The athlete should be given crutches and not bear weight. Medications used to control pain include aspirin, ibuprofen or acetaminophen.

Follow Up Treatment

Australian Doctor, a resource website for Australian doctors, advises follow up treatment for a torn calf muscle. This includes walking after 48 hours of rest, limiting activity for three to four weeks and using a raised heel on both shoes to make walking more comfortable. Prognosis depends on the location and severity of the muscle strain. Almost all grade one strains heal within a few weeks. Grade two strains may take two to three months.

Surgery

In a full calf muscle rupture, often the muscle rolls up near the top of the calf. According to Australian Doctor, surgical repair of this injury is reserved for severe tears in young athletes when the muscle needs to be reattached to the tendon.

After surgery to repair a grade three strain, most people regain normal leg muscle function within several months.

About this Author

Based in New Jersey, John Riefler III has been writing since 1987. His articles have appeared in “MD Magazine,” “Emergency Medicine” and “Hospital Practice.” Riefler holds a Bachelor of Science in biology from Bucknell University, a Master of Science in microbiology from M.U.S.C. and an M.D. from St. George’s U. School of Medicine.