Calf strains are graded from 1 to 3 depending on severity with grade 1 being a mild strain and grade 3 a fully blown complete, or almost complete rupture.
- Grade 1 injuries are regarded as a mild strain with possible micro-tears within the muscle structure, but the strength of the muscle is clinically unimpaired. Only a few fibres are damaged.
- The athlete may complain of a twinge in the back of the lower leg or simply a feeling of tightness.
- They may be able to carry on playing or competing with minimal pain. However, there is likely to be more tension or aching in the calf muscle which may take up to 24 hours to develop.
Grade 1 injuries can easily turn into grade 2 strains if they are underestimated or ignored. It is wise to stop exercising if the ache/pain does not settle down within 24 hours of exercise.
- Grade 2 strains are considered moderate involving a partial tear of the muscle.
- A sudden sharp pain at the back of the lower leg, with swelling likely.
- Bruising may develop over the following couple of days.
- Pain is felt when pushing up onto the toes and there will be significant weakness in the muscle.
- Grade 3 injuries are most severe and involve 90 to 100% of the muscle fibres being torn.
- There will be severe and immediate pain at the back of the lower leg.
- The athlete may complain of a ‘pop’ sensation at the time of injury.
- They will be unable to walk, or If they can they will walk with a significant limp.
- Swelling will develop rapidly within an hour or so and bruising is also likely to be visible.
- This is as a result of the torn muscle fibres and associated blood vessels.
- A gap or deformity in the muscle may be visible as the torn fibres bunch up towards the knee.
If you suspect a grade 3 strain then seek professional medical advice as soon as possible.