I have noticed a “pop” in the calf. What has happened and what can I do?
The rupture of the distal portion of the medial gastrocnemius muscle is also known as the "tennis leg" injury. Clinically it is characterized by sudden and severe pain ("like receiving a shot "), which quickly leads to loss of function and can become very disabling. The mechanism of injury is due to a sudden contraction of the medial gastrocnemius muscle when the leg goes from being fully extended and the ankle plantar flexed to knee flexion and dorsiflexion of the foot, a typical gesture of the tennis player when he wants to start running forward. This injury is also very common in runners, especially if it is accompanied by other risk factors.
Diagnosis is based on clinical symptoms and usually with the support of musculoskeletal ultrasound. The recovery time is long, usually between 6 weeks to a few months depending on the severity and the recovery process itself. Often this condition is associated with the rupture of the soleus or the plantaris muscle, together with deep vein thrombosis or haematoma formation in the groove between calf and soleus can be complicated by fibrosis. For this reason it is necessary that an adequate differential diagnosis is carried out.
As already described, the recovery time is long and the functional impairment that it causes is severe, so it is an injury on which it is worth spending time and effort to prevent its occurrence or if it occurs to prevent relapses.
What can we do to prevent this injury?
Certainly, ideally we could have an exclusive private physiotherapist for us like Nadal, Federer, Djokovic, Venus and Serena Williams have. But unfortunately for the ordinary mortals this is not possible. What can we do to minimize the chances of this injury occurring?
To carry out a proper prevention for this injury, we should go cyclically to our physiotherapist, to care for and pamper our muscles. As in many cases because of problems at work, children, and other unforeseen events it is not possible for us, a good resource of physical therapy at home is 3TOOL, your physio always with you.
3TOOL can help us prevent this injury by applying self-massage with its Zone 2, which adapts perfectly to the contours of the calf muscles (gastrocnemius, soleus, and other deeper ones), and so relaxing our muscles. To perform this self-massage correctly, you must apply a little oil or cream massage on the skin thus being much more enjoyable. Here you will find a demonstration video recorded under the supervision of a physical therapist on how to perform the massage:
The application of self-massage is something that can be combined with stretching, and most probably will provide you with very good results. If you do not know the proper way to stretch this muscle, you should consult your physiotherapist.
The stretches are recommended both as a preventive method as a therapeutic method, however, the realization of these is not recommended prior to any sport as it is counterproductive, as recent studies have shown that our muscles (in this case the calves) need a degree of stiffness to reduce the risk of injury.
Finally, if you suffer the injury, you must first apply ice over the area, and of course you must try to go to a professional as soon as possible so that through an ultrasound diagnosis the injury is confirmed or ruled out. After this it is best that you call on your usual physiotherapist to manage recovery from the injury. If for whatever reason the latter is not possible, we recommend not applying self-massage and stretching till 3-4 days after, since these exercises without supervision of a physiotherapist within that period may cause further damage.
Remember most importantly, prevention is better than cure and more so in this type of injury. 3TOOL can you help you in the difficult task of preventing this and other injuries.