Calf muscle strain in rugby

What is a calf muscle strain?
The calf muscles consist of the Gastrocnemius muscle, which is the big muscle at the back of the lower leg and the Soleus muscle, which is a smaller muscle lower in the leg, below the Gastrocnemius.

The Gastrocnemius muscle starts above the knee and inserts via the Achilles tendon into the heel. The Soleus originates below the knee and also inserts via the Achilles tendon. Although either of these two muscles can be strained or torn, the most common injury is to the muscle-tendon junction of the Gastrocnemius, roughly half way between the knee and the heel.

What causes a calf muscle strain?
A strain is caused by twisting or pulling the calf muscle.

An acute strain is caused by trauma or an injury such as a blow to the muscle or overstressing the calf muscle. Chronic strains are usually the result of overuse - prolonged, repetitive movement of the muscles.

Contributing factors include an inadequate warm up, lack of flexibility, fatigue and insufficient strength.


  • Pain: Gastrocnemius - midway up calf muscle; Soleus - lower in leg and when muscle contracts with knee bent
  • Difficulty contracting calf muscle or standing on toes
  • Audible pop sound and feeling of being hit in the calf
  • Swelling

What can you do

  • Seek medical attention
  • Apply RICE: rest - slows down bleeding and reduces the risk of further damage; Ice - eases pain, reduces swelling, reduces bleeding initially; compression - reduces bleeding and swelling; elevation - reduces bleeding and swelling by allowing fluids to flow away from the site of injury.

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