What's the best way to assess, manage, and prevent calf muscle strains?
Research reviewed: The Assessment, Management and Prevention of Calf Muscle Strain Injuries: A Qualitative Study of the Practices and Perspectives of 20 Expert Sports Clinicians. Green et al.
Calf muscle strain injuries (CMSI) are one of the most prevalent injuries in athletes and also have one of the highest rates of recurrence. This puts added emphasis on the entire spectrum of rehabilitation - from assessment to management to prevention.
To determine an ideal approach and framework for each, researchers in this paper interviewed 20 expert sports clinicians. Some key takeaways were as follows:
CMSI characteristics are unique compared to other muscle strains
Detailed clinical approach is important to clarify the diagnosis
The most accurate estimate for prognosis comes from monitoring calf capacity and how the calf is responding to loading
Each athlete’s intrinsic characteristics, injury factors, and sport-specific demands are important to take into account across the spectrum of rehabilitation. Here’s a visualization of such factors:
Further, the researchers created organized frameworks for assessment:
Key return to play testing:
And a six stage physio to performance model:
In totality, these frameworks give a concrete and methodical approach for the assessment, treatment, and return to play for CMSI that can be tailored to each individual and used to prevent recurrence.
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Dr. Rajpal Brar, DPT, (@3cbperformance) is a physiotherapist, movement expert, strength and conditioning/fitness coach, sports scientist and mindfulness coach. He runs the LA and online based physiotherapy and athletic performance clinic 3CB Performance and you can subscribe to his Youtube channel (which posts a variety of sports injury, performance, and fitness related content).