The Gastrocnemius Muscle
It is located behind the tibia and works across both the knee and ankle joints. It extends from the base of the femur behind the knee, to the heel bone. This muscle’s main roles are to plantar flex the foot (point toes away from yourself ) and to help flex the knee.
The Gastrocnemius is commonly injured in sports which require quick movement from a standard position and quick halts.
In these cases, the injury is caused by sudden overstretch.
The most common place to incur this injury is roughly halfway between the knee and the heel.
A calf strain may also be more likely in athletes who have tight calf muscles.
How to Avoid
- Keep calf muscles strong
- Stretch out calf muscles before physical activity
- Learn the proper technique for exercise and sporting activities.
- Undertake training prior to competition
- Undertake fitness programs to develop
- Gradually increase the intensity and duration of training
- Allow enough recovery time between workouts or training sessions
- Wear the right protective equipment
- Check the sporting environment for hazards
- Drink water before, during and after play.
- Avoid activities that cause pain
The immediate treatment of any soft tissue injury is the RICER – rest, ice, compression, elevation and referral to a sports medicine professional.
RICE should be followed for 48–72 hours. The aim is to reduce the bleeding and damage in the muscle. The leg should be rested in an elevated position with an ice pack applied for 20 minutes every two hours (never apply ice directly to the skin). A correctly sized compression bandage should be applied to limit bleeding and swelling in the injured area.
The No HARM protocol should also be applied – no heat, no alcohol, no running or activity, and no massage. This will ensure decreased bleeding and swelling in the injured area.