Jason Hatcher of the Dallas Cowboys lands on DL due to an injured calf

Jason Hatcher(notes) of the Dallas Cowboys suffered a calf injury on September 26, while playing against the Washington Redskins. Hatcher was replaced by Marcus Spears(notes) at defensive end for the remainder of the game, and even with the injury, the Cowboys beat the Redskins 18-16.

What is a calf injury?

A calf injury resulted from a sudden yet forceful push-off with his foot. The medical term is a medial gastrocnemius strain. Gastrocnem is the medical root word meaning calf of leg, while -ius is the suffix that means pertaining to. Therefore, a gastrocnemius strain is a strain pertaining to the calf of the leg. A medical calf injury can happen in many sports and activities yet it is sometimes refereed to as "tennis leg" since it is a common injury among those who play tennis.

While a medial gastrocnemius strain is the most common calf injury, there is another less common calf injury, involving the rupture of the Achilles tendon. Both calf injuries are significant and require exhaustive rehabilitation. The "Thompson Test" usually gives doctors the information needed to tell the difference between the two calf injuries.

How is a medical calf injury treated?

Initial treatment should be that of RICE, lasting for 24 to 48 hours. RICE is an acronym that stands for the following four components.

*Rest

*Ice

*Compression

*Elevation

Bearing weight on the injured leg is also important during the first 24 to 48 hours, as tolerated. Studies have shown that using a foot brace increases the rate of healing.

How does an injured calf impact the athlete?

An injured calf puts an end to the game for a professional athlete, at least for 15 or 60-days, depending upon the severity and recovery time required. The athlete must perform strength building exercises about 10 to 14 days after the injury, to slowly rebuild the calf muscle. Exercises include toe raises with the leg supported, then eventually unsupported. Upon rebuilding the calf muscles, the athlete will soon be ready to get back in the game.

How can calf injuries be avoided?

It is much easier to avoid a calf injury than it is to treat one. To avoid calf muscle injuries, always begin with a good warm-up before partaking in athletic activities. Keeping the calf muscles flexible is also helpful in preventing injuries. It is imperative to treat calf injuries in the early stages once acquiring them, in order to prevent reoccurring problems.

More from this contributor:

Total body health for athletes

Rebecca completed courses in Medical Terminology, Administrative Medical Assisting and Coding and Billing. She is recognized by the National Healthcareer Association as a Certified Billing and Coding Specialist (CBCS) and Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA).

Sources:

SB Nation

Medscape

Dr. DeGroot On-Line

USA Today

Allan, David M., Lockyer, Karen D., Buchman, Michelle A. (2008): Medical Language for Modern Health Care. New York: McGraw-Hill

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Updated Friday, Sep 30, 2011