I recently saw a fellow tennis player who injured his calf while playing tennis. His story was classic for the well-known injury referred to as tennis leg, which is actually a tear of the calf muscle known as the gastrocnemius.
The typical story involves a 40+ year old athlete who goes to accelerate by planting the foot and suddenly feels a “pop” in the mid calf. An athlete who experiences this typically thinks that someone or something hit him in the leg. What actually happened is that the athlete partially tore the muscle. The good news is that it does not require surgery. The bad news is it will take up to 3 months to get back on the court or on the field. Treatment for the injury involves use of ice, gentle stretching, and gradual mobilization. Once it gets to the point that the leg can handle retraining, the focus will be on strengthening and plyometrics.
As with many injuries, prevention is much better than having to suffer from this injury. In order to prevent this from happening to you, you must prepare your muscles and tendons for your chosen sport. If your sport involves a lot of quick and explosive movements, you must train your legs to do these movements. You can do this by doing what we refer to as plyometric exercise. Examples of this include box jumps, shuttle drills, sprints.
Unlike typical strength training exercises that involve long, slow movements designed to increase muscular strength and mass, plyometric exercises involve quick, explosive movements designed to increase speed and power.
By performing this type of exercise with regularity, your muscles and tendons will respond by getting stronger and more resistant to injury. So if you are going to play sports that require explosive movements, start your “plyo” training now to avoid an unnecessary injury.