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Tony Parker of the San Antonio Spurs Out with Calf Strain

Tony Parker, guard of the San Antonio Spurs, suffered from a calf strain on his left leg against Memphis.  What is a calf strain?

ANATOMY

The calf muscle, also known as the gastrocsoleus complex (GSC), runs from the top of the knee to the back of the heel bone.  It begins as two muscles bellies (the gastrocnemius muscle and the soleus muscle) and then merges to become one tendon – the Achilles tendon.  The Achilles tendon is the largest tendon in the human body.

The GSC is in charge of pointing the ankle towards the floor (plantarflexion), as you would do when pushing on a gas pedal.  The complex also functions to give you push off strength.

CAUSES

The GSC complex can be injured with direct trauma, sudden changes in direction when running, or pushing up on a plantarflexed ankle.

SYMPTOMS

There are different grades of muscle strains:

Grade I – the tearing is microscopic with stretching of the fibers.  Bleeding occurs in the muscle. These injuries associated with a twinge of pain.  Athletes may be able to return to play, but the soreness last for 3-5 days.

Grade II – the tearing is more severe. More bleeding occurs in the muscle.  There is a sharper pain in the back portion of the leg.  There is usually pain with walking and with plantarflexion. The soreness and tightness last for 7-10 days.

Grade III – this is a complete tear of the muscle.  There is sudden, intense pain in the calf.    The athlete is unable to plantarflex the ankle.  The entire muscle or tendon may be torn.  Athletes can be out of competitive play for 3-6 weeks.

TREATMENTS

Treatment is based on the severity of the injury.  Rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE) begin immediately.  Cold/ice therapy is applied first to minimize the bleeding and swelling in the calf.  Anti-inflammatories can help with the pain and inflammation.  A compression sleeve, sock, or stocking can help with the swelling. Physical therapy, with massage, ultrasound, stretching and strengthening exercises is essential.  Surgery is rarely needed, unless the tendon has torn.

WHEN TO SEEK MEDICAL CARE

If you suspect that you have symptoms concerning for a calf strain, you should seek medical attention within a few days.

RETURN TO ACTIVITIES/OUTCOMES

The timing for a return to play depends on the severity of the strain:

Grade I – Athletes may be able to return to play, but the soreness last for 3-5 days.

Grade II – The soreness and tightness last for 7-10 days.

Grade III –  Athletes can be out of competitive play for 3-6 weeks.

VIDEO/ANIMATION

To watch a surgical video of Achilles tendon repairs, go to:http://www.youtube.com/NCOCatDuke#p/u/5/rD3aI_7EneA

Based on reports on his injury, Parker will likely be back to action within 4 weeks.

Dr. P

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All material published through this blog/website is for informational and entertainment purposes only. Readers are encouraged to confirm the information contained herein with other sources. Patients and consumers should review the information carefully with their professional health care provider. The information is not intended to replace medical advice offered by physicians. Dr. Parekh and Duke University will not be liable for any direct, indirect, consequential, special, exemplary, or other damages arising from the discussions in this blog.  For more information on Duke Orthopaedics, go to: http://www.dukehealth.org/orthopaedics.

Locations

  • N.C. Orthopaedic Clinic
  • Durham Regional Hospital
  • Davis Ambulatory Surgery Center
  • Duke Hospital North
  • Duke Ambulatory Surgery Center

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