Calf muscle tear – tips for fast return to sport

  • The onset of a calf muscle tear can vary from a sudden pop or stabbing sensation to an extreme tightness or pre-cramp feeling
  • Visible bruising is less common with calf tears
  • Recovery times vary widely based on the severity and location of the tear


  • You can confirm a tear that involves some structural damage by measuring the circumference of the calf and comparing it to the uninjured side. An increase of 1cm or greater is likely to be caused by a bleed from the damaged area
  • Avoid stretching or rolling your calf during the recovery phase as it can disrupt the repair process and delay recovery
  • To relieve pressure on the muscle in the first week, throw on a pair of heels! A 1-2″ broad/stable heel is enough to take the muscle off stretch (although 3″+ heels will make it work harder so don’t get too keen) 


  • Classic calf raises in an upright position are only a basic exercise and won’t help improve your calf function beyond providing a small improvement in strength. The calf may “feel the burn” but the exercise doesn’t work the muscle in its most useful position, from a lengthened or stretched position pushing back towards a neutral ankle position
  • Pain-free jogging or moderately paced running is a poor indication of readiness to return to full training as the muscle is only working to a small percentage of its capacity 
  • Complete rest in the early recovery phase is a bad idea and increases the risk of recurrence. Try to keep fit with cross training and maintain strength of other muscle groups with a gym program. Letting the injured muscle rest doesn’t mean you have to lose your momentum


  • If you have a sudden onset of calf pain and tightness and a history of chronic knee swelling, you may be experiencing a ruptured Baker’s Cyst instead of a calf tear
  • If your pain is constant, you may have a Tibial bone stress fracture or stress reaction
  • If your pain warms up with activity and worsens after a period of rest, you may have Shin Splints

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