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Gastrocnemius Tear

The gastrocnemius muscle, commonly referred to as the calf muscle, is responsible for “jumping off” or acceleration movements. It is located on the back of the lower portion of the leg and is composed of two muscles: the medial (inner) head and the lateral (outer) head The medial gastrocnemius muscle is more commonly injured than the lateral gastrocnemius muscle. Gastrocnemius tears can range from mild to complete

Gastrocnemius Tear Hero Image 2

The gastrocnemius muscle, commonly referred to as the calf muscle, is responsible for “jumping off” or acceleration movements. It is located on the back of the lower portion of the leg and is composed of two muscles: the medial (inner) head and the lateral (outer) head. The medial head attaches to the inner back side of the base of the femur (thigh bone), and the lateral head attaches to the outer back side of the base of the femur. The other end of the gastrocnemius muscle attaches to the Achilles tendon, the tendon that attaches the calf muscle to the heel bone, at ankle level.

A gastrocnemius tear can occur in different grades, each one classified by the severity of the injury:

• Grade I: A micro tear of the calf muscle.
• Grade II: A partial tear of the calf muscle.
• Grade III: The calf muscle is torn completely through.

The medial gastrocnemius muscle is more commonly injured than the lateral gastrocnemius muscle.

What causes Gastrocnemius Tear?

Gastrocnemius tears usually occur during pushing off motions, where the knee is straight.

Gastrocnemius tears are common in these sports:

• Baseball
• Basketball
• Golf
• Soccer
• Tennis
• Track and field (sprinting races)

Symptoms

You may have a gastrocnemius tear if you experience sudden pain in the back of the lower leg in addition to one or more of the following symptoms:

• In some cases, a popping sensation
• Pain in the upper calf on the inside of the leg
• Pain when pushing off

When to see a doctor

If you have symptoms of a gastrocnemius tear, you may want to make an appointment to see your doctor. Sometimes, a tear in the gastrocnemius can be confused with a tear in the Achilles tendon because these two injuries can occur by means of the same mechanism.

In order to make the diagnosis, your doctor will examine you closely. If there is any question, your doctor may prescribe the following imaging tests to assess for damage to other structures, like the achilles tendon.

• MRI
• Ultrasound

Non-operative treatment

Gastrocnemius tears are treated using non-operative treatments, which include:

• Resting the leg
• Icing the calf intermittently throughout the day
• Wearing a special boot to support and protect the calf
• Home stretching exercises
• Physical therapy with a licensed professional to stretch and strengthen the calf muscle

Your physical therapist will focus on restoring flexibility to the muscle in order to prevent recurrence in the future.

You can also try these exercises at home to stretch and strengthen the gastrocnemius muscle:

Gastrocnemius Tear

Surgical Treatment

Gastrocnemius tears do not require surgical treatment; they are treated using conservative, non-operative treatments.

Recovery

Your recovery time will depend on the severity of the tear as well as what your specific needs are for your sport. Typically, recovery from a gastrocnemius tear is as follows:

• Grade I: Recovery from a grade I gastrocnemius tear can take up to two weeks.
• Grade II: Recovery from a grade II gastrocnemius tear can take several weeks.
• Grade III: Recovery from a grade III gastrocnemius tear can take a few months.

You can return to normal training activities and play when you regain flexibility and strength of the leg and have no pain. Be careful that you do not return to play too early, as sometimes these injuries can recur if you return to play before you are completely healed. In order to prevent further injuries, continue your stretching and strengthening program for both legs.

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