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Module 11: Calf muscle strain prevention

Erasmus+
“This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein”

 

Calf muscles strain – Prevention Strategies

 

Upon completion of this module the reader will be able to:

  • Understand basic anatomy of the ankle joint complex.
  • Understand calf injury epidemiology in soccer
  • Understand the mechanisms for calf injury in soccer
  • Determine common risk factors that can lead to calf injury pain.
  • Incorporate exercises to prevent calf injury
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Review the «Anatomy and Function of the knee joint complex» topic and the «Injury prevention strategies» topic first. Read the description of “The calf injuries in soccer – Prevention strategies” and the corresponding presentation and then follow the proposed videos for some ideas of “Calf injury prevention exercises”. End the session with the “Bibliography and the additional learning materials” and assess your understanding with the “Calf injuries in soccer” quiz.

Τhe proposed preventive strategies for calf muscle injuries include 3 phases and they propose specific preventive exercises :

   Phase IMuscular conditioning to restore dysfunctional movement patterns that can impede performance

  1a. Inhibition: Inhibit through foam rolling the over-activate muscles: gastrocnemius and hamstrings.

  1b.Muscle lengthen: Specific lengthening exercises with static or neuromuscular stretches for   gastrocnemius and hamstrings.

   Phase IIMuscular performance: Modifying strength and conditioning movements 

  Specific activation exercises through strengthening exercises or positional stabilization exercises for for  gastrocnemius, quads and hamstrings. Core strength.

  Phase III:  Functional exercise: Building efficient movement patterns 

   Starting with proper athletic position, always warm up before playing, perform different Squats and Walking Lunges. Do balance, agility-changing direction and jumping and landing exercises.

Calf muscle injuries in soccer  – Prevention Strategies

Injury epidemiology

Soccer players often experience calf muscle injuries, especially mild ones. This is one of the reasons, that such injuries are under-reported. In general, a soccer team with 25 players should expect about 15 muscle strains in a season (Ekstrand et al. 2011). Of these, calf muscle strains represent approximately 3.6% of all injuries in soccer over a 5-year period (Green et al. 2017). Interestignly, when you become older, the risk for a calf muscle injury increases, more than other muscle injuries (Ekstrand et al. 2011). If not managed appropriately there is the risk of re-injury and prolonged recovery. Most injuries occur in the medial head of the gastrocnemius or close to the musculotendinous junction.

Mechanisms of injury

The gastrocnemius is considered at high risk for strains because it is bi-articular and it has a high density of type-two fast twitch muscle fibers. The muscle experiences fast stretches when the knee extends and the ankle dorsiflexes. This forces the fibers of the muscle to stretch and then suddenly shorten, and, hence, fibers have to resist high forces when lengthening. This mechanism of injury could be described like a cracking whip. Consequently, strains of the gastrocnemius have historically been called coup de fouet or snap of the whip.  Sprinting activities which combine sudden changes in velocity of the player, impose high force demands on the gastrocnemius muscle, as the muscle has to resist external forces during the impact phase and then produce high forces during the push-off phase.  Soleus muscle injuries are rarely reported, but they may occur during overstretch of the ankle muscles.

 

Calf  muscle strain in soccer  prevention exercises based on previous phases:

Phase I : Muscular conditioning to restore dysfunctional movement patterns that can impede performance

 

 

Phase ΙI : Muscular performance – Modifying strength and conditioning movements patterns

 

 

Phase III: Functional exercise – Building efficient movement patterns

 

 

Bibliography and the additional learning materials

 
  • Perform active and passive stretches of both the soleus and the gastrocnemius in the pre-season and warm-down phase of daily training
  • Strengthen your gastrocnemius and soleus, especially in the pre-season period
  • Practice plyometric exercises, with an emphasis on hops, quick drop jumps and sprinting exercises
  • When you feel your calf muscles stiff, consult the medical staff
  • Ekstrand J, Hägglund M, Waldén M. Epidemiology of muscle injuries in professional football (soccer). Am J Sports Med. 2011;39(6):1226-1232. doi:10.1177/0363546510395879
  • Green B, Pizzari T. Calf muscle strain injuries in sport: a systematic review of risk factors for injury. Br J Sports Med 2017;51: 1189-1194
  • Armfield DR, Kim DH, Towers JD, Bradley JP, Robertson DD. Sports-related muscle injury in the lower extremity. Clin Sports Med. 2006;25:803–42.

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Quiz module 11

Calf muscle strain prevention

1 / 9

Calf muscle injuries are:

2 / 9

A team of 25 soccer players is expected to have:

3 / 9

Calf muscle injury increases:

4 / 9

Most calf muscle injury involve the:

5 / 9

The main mechanism of gastrocnemius injury is:

6 / 9

A sport movement which leads to calf injury is:

7 / 9

An exercise of phase 1 calf injury prevention is:

8 / 9

An exercise of phase 2 calf injury prevention is:

9 / 9

An exercise of phase 3 calf injury prevention is:

Your score is

The average score is 0%

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Erasmus+

“This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.”