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How can I prevent a calf tear when running?

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Calf muscle injuries are one of the most common complaints in the sporting world, and if you are partial to an activity such as running, which can put pressure on this part of the body, it’s important to take preventative steps to minimise the risk of it happening to you. James Vickers, Specialist Physiotherapist at Wimbledon Clinics, talks us through calf tears and how best to handle them.

What causes a calf tear?

Your calf is made up of two main muscles whose key function is to pull up on the heel as you push-off when running or walking and to absorb the energies when you plant your foot. The soleus is the main muscle in the group and, in combination with the quadriceps, provides most of the upward energy required for running. If the muscle isn’t strong enough to handle this force or the weight of the body it needs to support, it can lead to an injury.

It is a common misconception that calf tears are a result of an insufficient warm-up with a lack of stretching. However, there is no strong clinical evidence to support this theory. Stretching does, of course, have its place in supporting the well-being of the calf muscle group, but it is much more likely to be a lack of strength or stability which causes this type of injury.

How is a calf injury diagnosed and treated?

The initial symptoms that your calf muscles might be struggling are tightness, knotting and a general ‘niggling’ sensation at first. As many runners continue to push themselves, this can result in a more severe injury which could present you with a sore, stabbing or burning sensation.

In the immediate aftermath of a painful calf tear, PRICE protocol can be employed i.e. protect, relative rest, ice, compression and elevation. All play an important part. Relative rest is needed to give the muscle time to recover – this will vary depending on the severity of the muscle injury. It is then important to get the calf working again in a progressive manor – this is the tricky bit. If the calf isn’t given time and sufficient attention to properly recover, it is likely to happen again within a short space of time., and this gives rise to a cycle of repeated injury. However, the key to successfully treating a calf tear is to address the root of the cause and prevent it happening again.

How can Wimbledon Clinics help?

At Wimbledon Clinics, one of our specialist physiotherapists would carry out a comprehensive biomechanical assessment to ascertain the reason behind the injury. Each case is assessed on an individual basis – for some people it might be a lack of strength in the calf whilst for others it could be a weak ankle from an old injury causing instability. Once the root cause has been determined, you will receive a tailored exercise programme, specifically designed for your body, to strengthen the muscles and improve your lower limb function. If you are suffering from a calf injury and need advice and specialist treatment, then contact us today and we’ll assess your injury and put together a clear strategy for treatment and recovery, so you can be back to your best as soon as possible. Call us on: 0208 944 0665 or email us at: [email protected] 

Running and strength training

The bottom line is this: runners must remember that running and strength training exercise go hand-in-hand if they want to avoid the risk of injury. Runners must be sure to mix up their running routine with carefully planned strength training in order to ensure their muscles have the power to function effectively and efficiently. In fact, it is often the case with strength training exercises that focusing on other muscle groups as well as the calf muscles can help support this part of the body. Taking the time to work on building strength in the hips and knees, for example, can contribute to minimising the risk of a calf tear.

A professional strength and conditioning programme, like those offered here at Wimbledon Clinics, can help improve your speed, muscle endurance and, ultimately, help you to become a stronger, faster and more efficient runner – all whilst minimising your risk of injury, especially at the calf.