The term tennis leg is mainly referred to as a medial calf injury that occurs due to the extensive force to the medial head of the gastrocnemius muscle at the back leg, leading to tearing. This greatest force on the muscle unit mainly happens when the knee is extended and the foot is dorsiflexed.
The tennis leg injury is very common to athletes during sports activities especially when they are pushing or lifting a large weight or force.
Though the medial head of the gastrocnemius is a common site of this injury, at times the plantaris muscle is involved, resulting in extensive bruising and swelling. Along with these two, other symptoms are very clear and sudden that start with burning pain and most occasionally significant disability to walking.
At the treatment stage, a diagnostic ultrasound scan is a must as well as a clinical assessment. Let’s take deep insights through our below comprehensive discussion.
What is Tennis Leg and What Causes It?
The tennis leg is mainly an injury that occurs from the partial tear of the gastrocnemius muscle. The gastrocnemius muscle is the calf and clearly to say the sports muscles are at the back of the lower leg. And “Tennis leg” mainly refers to acute mid-calf pain, caused by tearing.
Basically, the calf muscles are formed by two muscles. One is the gastrocnemius and the other is the soleus. All these help to quick movements, such as jumping and sprinting.
Due to several reasons, when the medial head of gastrocnemius calf muscles is pushed to its limit, it leads to tearing of the connective tissue between the gastrocnemius and soleus, also termed “tennis leg”.
Also when the tearing occurs, there may present other injuries to the soft tissues at the back of the lower leg as well.
Tennis Leg Causes
Generally, the Tennis leg occurs during sprinting of the knee and forced dorsiflexion of the ankle. This entity can be caused by running, jumping, or pushing off on one leg. Also, when someone is trying to push off the ground, the gastrocnemius can be subject to higher forces than other muscles.
All these activities are quite common among tennis players and from where the term Tennis Leg comes. It can also happen in many other sports like tennis, basketball, soccer, and so on.
What Are the Common Symptoms of Tennis Leg?
Whenever anyone encounters the tennis leg, a sudden sharp pain will feel in the calf muscle. Also, the patient will start feeling pain with ankle movements and an audible pop sound can also be heard at the time of the incident.
That’s the end! Here are some more symptoms reported from the Tennis Leg patients’ complaints:
- A calf pain radiates to the knee or the ankle. Even the pain feels whenever you are touching the calf muscles or even during running and sports.
- If it is a severe injury, the shape of the calf muscles will change. At times, the associated color changes of bruising.
- Due to the stretching of the torn muscle fibers, the pain is denoted by passive ankle dorsiflexion. This leads a player to an inability to continue with the sport.
- A sudden pop or crack in the calf.
- Burning pain during walking and whil3 placing weight that causes you to limp.
How is Tennis Leg Diagnosed and What is the Prognosis?
In general, the diagnosis of the tennis leg will be done based on the depth of the tearing or how long before the patient is feeling the pain due to this injury. At times, only an Ultrasound of the calf is used to image the damage to the calf muscles and tendons and to find whether the Achilles tendon is intact.
Other Clinical Assessments Include
|A Clinical Interview||A short interview session with the patient to investigate how, where, and from why the pain begins.|
|Physical assessment||Find out the symptoms and make relate whether it is actually the tennis leg before heading to further treatment.|
This is the question-answering session between a clinician and patients that are designed to gather data that is needed for diagnosis. In this session, the clinician will ask the patient about the tennis leg. He basically wants to know for how long the patient has been feeling pain.
Also, they try to understate the exact pain in order to rule out another source of your pain including deep vein thrombosis (DVT). This is important to differentiate because if it is DVT, it signs that the patient requires urgent medical assistance.
Now, this is the phase when the clinical will try to locate the cause of symptoms through close observation of the injured muscles. The clinical will find whether the shape of the injured area is changed, bruised, or has been swelled. He may ask the patient to try to stand on one leg to see if it is possible for him. This will give them a measure of how severe the tennis leg injury is.
Other physical assessments in this session may include
- Ankle & calf range of movement
- Gentle palpation of the calf complex
- Walking assessment.
Diagnostic Musculoskeletal Ultrasound Scan
It is the most significant part of the diagnostic parts of the tennis leg patient. Diagnostic musculoskeletal ultrasound on a tennis leg is mainly an imaging phase to get a deep insight into the calf muscle tear. It is clear visualization of the injured part and provides far better results than the MRI scan. It also helps to find out the assessing the presence of calf injury.
Anyway, after completing the appointment related to the clinical interview and physical assessment, the patients are sent for scanning to determine pain levels & the healing of the tear.
Other foot and ankle conditions include:
- Midfoot Osteoarthritis (OA)
- Retrocalcaneal and pre-Achilles bursitis
- Mid-potion Achilles tendinopathy
- Baxter’s nerve
- Ankle Osteoarthritis (OA)
- Chronic ankle sprain
- Morton’s neuroma
- Plantar FasciitisSinus Tarsi Syndrome
Prognosis of Tennis Leg
The recovery time of the tennis leg mainly depends on the severity of the injury. In general, it will take up to 3 to 16 weeks to heal without any surgery. But if it is only the minor tears, the recovery will be so quick. After healing, the patient can return to daily activities only by gaining functional assessments.
What Are Some Preventative Measures to Avoid Tennis Leg?
There is no recommended term to prevent tennis leg. But the risk of being injured can be reduced by taking some safety measures. That includes: warming up before play, cooling down afterward, and also rolling out the muscles after playing. Plus, you can take a warm bath at the end of the day or consider investing in sports massage to reduce the risk of muscle training and tears.
Don’t get puzzled just seeing the preview. Let’s get into the deep insights:
1. Warm-up Before Playing
It is the best way to prevent tennis legs so far. If you are warming up for up to 10-20 minutes before jumping to the sports activities, it will help to get your blood flowing fast. Not only this, this activity is far more effective in increasing the heart rate and enabling to reach more oxygen to every muscle of the body which reduces the risk the muscle strain.
Keep a note that, warm muscles are always more flexible which helps you to prevent injury. Plus, a good warm is acted as a preparation to increase the focus and motivation for your next activity.
2. Stretch Your Arm and Leg
After the workout, you can hold each stretch of your body for about 30 seconds. it is an essential cool-down session after completing any cardiovascular workout. It will help to maintain flexibility and joint mobility.
Also, after cooling down, your heart rate will return to normal slowly which will greatly affect the overall blood circulation of your body. The overall process will reduce the risk of being injured by muscle tearing.
3. Foam Rolling
Foam rolling mainly refers to a self-myofascial release (SMR) technique. It is the most effective tool that is used before and after exercise to relieve muscle tightness and soreness.
It also helps to reduce inflammation and increase your range of motion. The doctor always suggests the range of motion that is important to improve the flexibility and performance of your muscles. Consequently, you are preventing the risk of muscle strain by yourself. Thus make sure you have rolled out each muscle for about 30 seconds.
Along with the exercise, it will be far better if you can manage any effective tool that will give your muscles protection while doing the workout. For this instance, the compression sleeve for the leg and knee comes in the first row.
This sleeve is enough helpful in case of reducing the swelling caused by muscle injury. It is also beneficial for shin splints, muscle cramps, and tendonitis. Most importantly, a compression sleeve helps to keep the legs warm. And a warm leg is always better to withstand any force than a cold leg.
Leg massage is a great activity to increase the mobility of muscle tissues and improve the blood supply. When you are properly stretching your body muscle, it decreases the probability of being injured may occur during a sports game or exercise.
Cross-training is a great way to build strength and flexibility. It refers to exercise such as hiking, walking, cycling, swimming, rowing, rollerblading, and so in. All of these are effective to stretch the body’s muscles. Stretching the muscles will help reduce your risk of muscle strains and tears.
What Should I Do If I Experience Tennis Leg and How Can I Recover From It?
Whenever you are encountering a tennis leg, you will need to start the treatment right then. Keep in mind that, the sooner you treat the injury, the quicker you will get relief from the pain. As for a quick treatment, apply ice and then try to hold the leg raising above the heart. Along with this, use crutches unit your doctor is prescribing you any medicine or further treatment.
Not only this, there are far more precautions that you need to take while experiencing tennis leg. Here you go!
Acute Stage Rehabilitation
Rest: At the earlier stage, when you are unknown how much severe your injury is, it’s better to take rest as much as possible. Always try to sit down and keep your leg at rest instated of frequently standing.
Icing: Apply ice and cold pack for about 20 minutes.
Compression: If possible, apply a compression wrap or a calf bandage to reduce the shaking of the injured area. It will help to minimize the risk of swelling up and also reduce the blood flow. If this happens, the patient will feel less pain.
Avoid Massaging: Don’t massage or apply heat at the primary stage as it may lead to more pain rather than get relief.
Lifting: Raise your leg in an elevated position and make sure it is above the level of your heart. It will be better if you can lift you lift your leg using pillows, blankets, or cushions. Elevating the leg will encourage the blood flow to inflamed tissue that help to reduce swelling.
Well! All the above steps are the primary Acute Stage Rehabilitation process. After 1 to 2 days, when the severe pain, as well as swelling, has been noticed, these are the major 3 steps that you have to follow in sequence:
Step 1: Process of Improving the General Condition
After the primary rehabilitation and still, the patient is feeling pain, this is the stage when they can put weight on their foot. For this instance, he can use elbow crutches continuously for about 1 week.
This will support him to keep balance on foot. Also, you can use heel lifts in shoes to make it easier to load on the calf muscles during walking. Continue using this lift for about 1 to 2 weeks.
Along with the heel lift and elbow crutches, there are a few stretching exercises that a tennis leg patient can apply to improve the blood flow to the calf muscles and overall recovery. Here you go!
|Long calf muscles Stretching||
|Short calf muscles stretching||
|Strengthening the foot muscles||
Step 2: Build-up
If you are doing the above exercises on the regular basis, you will feel pain much less and the injury will start recovering. This is the time you can start your sports activities but only then when walking is possible for you without pain.
Do always repeat to strengthen your calf muscles and then rise onto your toes. Hold this position for 10 to 20 seconds. Repeat this attempt on both feet. At the same time. If you feel it struggles while wailing elastic tubing that will help you to build strength in the muscles in every movement.
If this material gives you relief, you can begin jogging or straight running. As follows, consequently, you can start jumping exercises as well.
Step 3: Return to the Workout
If you feel enough relief after completing the above stages, be sure it is time that you can conveniently return to your daily workout. If you are a tennis player, return to the tennis court. Take enough safety measures while playing like starting with mini tennis and keeping short the distance to the wall. Then involve moving longer distances. Keep the concentration on your positions.
How Long Does It Take to Recover From Tennis Leg And What is the Best Way to Manage the Pain?
Generally, it will take up to four to six weeks to completely recover from the tennis leg. Meanwhile, you can sufficiently warm up your injured area to manage the pain for the most part.
The treatment of the Tennis leg is routinely conservatively that is done by the management of a physiotherapist. If a patient responds well to the treatment and maintains the suggested exercise in time, it will not take a long time to recover from the injury. Generally, within 6-12 weeks they start to come back to their normal positions.
In most cases, the recovery time depends on the extent of the tear. Though there doesn’t require any surgery, the patient needs to remain under the supervision of the physiotherapist if he’s going through severe pain.
Here, return to full activity will be determined by functional assessment rather than by time. Once the patient can able to walk without limping and can raise the leg calf with minimal pain, signs that you can start your daily activity slowly.
What Types of Shoes are Recommended to Avoid Tennis Leg?
The shoes to avoid the tennis leg should have a high heel drop, enough response cushioned to absorb impact, and a stable midsole to manage the foot muscle through the gait cycle. Even This type of shoe will be ideal for those who are suffering from calf stains due to offering enough support and cushioning overall.
Following the above suggestion, here are a few best shoes that are highly recommended just to avoid tennis leg and help you to stay stable:
|New Balance Men’s 1540 V3 Running Shoe||Men||
|Nike Women’s React Infinity 2 Running Shoe||Women||
New Balance Men’s 1540 V3 Running Shoe
The New Balance 1540v3 is our top recommendation if you are on the hunt for the best shoes for your ankle support while playing or working out. It is made up of two layers of performance foam that will deliver mile-after-mile stability and superior support, no matter what you are doing.
The equipped ENCAP midsole technology combined with lightweight foam in polyurethane rim is certainly a great addition to these shoes. All that will work as roll support and ensure you are best comfortable through the breathable mesh upper. Along with being comfortable, these shoes are durable enough and support to maintain hassle-free rear-foot movement in every step.
Nike Women’s React Infinity 2 Running Shoe
This is the best running shoe, recommended for women who are conscious about their ankle support. It will effectively work to avoid any type of calf injury along with tennis leg.
Nike Women’s React Infinity 2 is always in the top favorite row just for ensuring the next level of support not just in the ankles but across the foot.
The shoes are lightweight and breathable enough to keep the foot cooler and dryer. It is also designed to control motion for why you can able to focus on your running. With low rubber foam cushioning, you are getting a responsive feel, and keep your foot locked in place, thus there is nothing to worry about injury. Above all, the Synthetic materials along with the rubber sole will give you the best stability with every of your harsh movement.
Can Tennis Leg Be Treated With Non-surgical Options or is Surgery the Only Option?
No! A tennis leg isn’t such a severe injury that requires surgery to get healed. This leg injury is quite common among middle-aged athletes that typically occur to the tears of the medial head of the gastrocnemius muscle. It can easily manage through the physical therapy program, a few medications, and the rehabilitation process in the earlier stage. Thus there is no need for surgery and a full recovery is expected within this.
What is the Recommended Timeline For Returning to Play After Experiencing a Tennis Leg?
There is no exact recommended timeline, signing you that you can return to normal activity after experiencing tennis leg. The overall fact depends on the functional assessment during your treatment stages.
Just spot after the injury, the primary rehabilitation treatment will start. Right then, you need to head to a physiotherapist who will provide you with the overall outline phases for recovery.
After completing medication and proper exercising, you can expect to minimize the injury within 2 to 6 weeks. But return for a daily workout based on your doctor’s suggestions.
Well! That’s all from us here for you. Through this guide, we’ve given our level best to give a clear insight into a common traumatic injury of the tennis leg. There is no need for surgery or operation for recovery, but you need to head to treatment as soon as you can to get relief from pain quickly.
If you’ve not experienced this severe injury yet, don’t miss to take enough possible preventive measures like warming up before playing, wearing well-effective ankle-supportive shoes during workouts, doing cardio work on a regular basis, and so on!