NOT ANOTHER BABY COW!
Maybe it’s because we live close to the beach with lots of over 40’s still being very active and running the beach and playing sport, but lately we have seen a lot of acute calf tears. These injuries do occur in our younger patients too, but it seems to be most prevalent in the 40-50yr age group.
This is a time in our life when possibly our collagen fibres tend to start losing some of their elasticity. No one really knows why. The 40-60 year olds along the Northern Beaches are still quite a fit and active bunch. One theory is that this is a busy time in many people’s lives, whether it’s working, looking after kids or running businesses and often don’t put in the time to maintain our fitness and conditioning. Then the opportunity arises to have that game of tennis, squash or enter that fun run or crossfit or PT session.
Running barefoot on the soft sand is a great way of keeping some cardio fitness whilst strengthening our small muscle groups in our feet and around our ankles and legs. It has less impact on the knees than road running. But warning, if you go too hard too soon, you will suffer. Always start with only small distances and graduate them over a period of a 3-4 runs. If you use correct technique and dig those toes in as you propel yourself, your calf muscles will work hard.
If your calves are very stiff and sore from an initial training session, try and avoid quick change of directions sports until your calves recover. Tennis, touch football, small sided soccer, basketball and netball are some of the culprits which may result in a sudden tear of the calf muscle. You can prepare for these sports by gently stretching the calves, and more importantly, loading the muscle through range by doing a reverse calf raise. Raise up on both toes, then slowly lower down on one foot off step. Repeat 3 x 10 reps each leg.
If you do tear a calf, it is usually quite sudden. Depending on severity it can feel like a cramp coming on (usually Grade 1). Grades 2 and 3 are quite painful and can feel like someone has kicked you. Most people on the tennis court look around to see who hit the tennis ball at their leg.
What to do:
- Stop the activity
- Ice 20-30 mins and elevate if possible
- Do NOT try and stretch it out – it won’t like it afterwards
- Tear up some cardboard and fold it to slide under the heel in the shoe up to 2 cm in height. This will allow you to walk a little easier without pulling the muscle further while it heals.
- Visit your MGS Physiotherapist. They will help Diagnose which grade of tear you have, and help you ease the swelling bleeding. Most importantly, they will guide you to a quick and safe return to activity and hopefully avoid that fateful too early return to sport which often end in being back to square one or worse.