Tennis Leg

Tennis Leg or Medial Gastrocnemius Strain: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment

Tennis leg, also known as medial gastrocnemius strain, is a condition where the medial head of the gastrocnemius muscle gets torn causing lot of pain. There may be a tear of plantaris muscle or sometimes both the muscles may be torn. Generally, surgery is not required for this injury.

Tennis Leg or Medial Gastrocnemius Strain

Tennis leg is a condition where there the plantaris muscle and/or the medial head of the gastrocnemius (calf muscle) is torn or ruptured. The plantaris muscle is a slender muscle located at the posterior side of the lower leg. It attaches externally above the knee and travels down the calf posteriorly and inserts into the heel bone. Its helps the bigger calf muscles in plantar flexing the ankle. About 15% of the population does not have this muscle. Partial tears of the medial gastrocnemius muscle also results in a tennis leg.[1]

Symptoms of Tennis Leg[2]

  • Sharp, burning pain in the back of the knee or calf muscle.
  • Inability to walk or move the ankle.
  • Bruising occurs.
  • Swelling may be present.
  • Tenderness to touch.
  • It may be mistaken for deep vein thrombosis.

Causes of Tennis Leg[3]

When a force or pressure is applied while the knee is straight. Forceful movements such as jumping or pushing off also cause this injury. These movements are common in Tennis; hence the term ‘tennis leg’ is used to describe this injury.

Treatment of Tennis Leg[4]

  • R.I.C.E. (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) technique helps in reducing bleeding, swelling and inflammation.
  • Proper warm-up should be done before beginning any exercise or playing sports in order to avoid this injury.
  • Crutches may be used to avoid complete weight bearing.
  • As the pain subsides, full weight bearing can be introduced gradually.
  • After the pain decreases, mobility exercises and gentle calf stretching can be started.
  • Once patient is able to walk comfortably without pain, then strengthening exercises such as isometric exercises can be started. The intensity of these exercises can be increased using resistance bands.
  • When the calf strength on the affected leg is same as the normal leg, then the athlete can start training and return to other sports activities gradually.
  • Surgery is generally not required for this injury.