What to expect when you have a calf injury

Injuries to the calf muscles are very common in football. They can be easily confused with Achilles injuries due to their proximity; this mistake can have serious consequences.

https://www.football4football.com/storage/img/articleimages/originals/sjRcbf7gouGIyBgFKRoc1SikpuLiJTVBqaM.jpg Injuring a calf muscle during a game means it will be hard to play on.

Along with hamstrings and the Achilles, the calf muscles are the back of the legs. They have been known to pull or strain if a player has not warmed up properly before the training or a match. Cramps in the calves can happen after prolonged periods of activity. Dynamic movements on the pitch like jumping and sprinting require them to be called into action sharply.


Calf injuries are easily done. They have been known to happen more at the start of the season.
Elite Sports Scientist
Dr. Adam Owen to football4football


Cramps are also a significant problem in this area as the calf muscles are in constant use on a football pitch. It is essential to monitor a calf injury to separate it from the more severe Achilles tendon [link to Achilles Article] problems that can arise in the same area. 


Thierry_Henry_stretches_his_calf_after_getting_cramp_football4footballCRAMP: A young Thierry Henry at Juventus tries to loosen at tightening calf.




Pre-season always throws up an above-average amount of soft tissue injuries. This is due to overstressing the muscle with the wrong types of training after long periods of inactivity, which can lead to strains. To minimise this risk, new training methods have been introduced.

Additionally, the days of professional players doing nothing for weeks on the end of the season are long over. The club sports scientists and performance trainers now give gradual training programmes, so that there is a steady build-up of the bodies' ability to train again.


A_footballers_calf_muscles_work_as_he_sprintsMUSCLE STRENGTH: The calf muscles & Achilles are always at work on the pitch. More so during explosive movements.


That being said, even with the best preparation, a calf injury can occur. After an injury, such as a pull or strain, scar tissue can form. If this is not broken down, it can result in the muscle being less stretchy, and the calf can easily be pulled again during playing. Therefore, physiotherapists and sports masseurs provide treatments to minimise this happening.

The calf muscles go through a lot during a game. They are constantly working together with the Achilles tendon.
football4football training team



Injuries to the calf muscles can also happen through direct impact, where an opponents foot or knee collide with a player's calf, resulting in bleeding and development of a haematoma (a tumour of clotted or partially clotted blood), or blood collection within the muscle, causing muscle damage with a great degree of pain. This is known as a 'dead leg'.


What is a haematoma?

haematoma (UK spelling) or hematoma (US spelling) is a localised bleeding outside of blood vessels, due to either disease or trauma including injury or surgery and may involve blood continuing to seep from broken capillaries. A hematoma is benign and is initially in liquid form spread among the tissues including in sacs between tissues where it may thicken and solidify before blood is reabsorbed into blood vessels.

Source Wikipedia


These are treated like most muscle injuries with rest, ice, elevation, compression and physiotherapy. During therapy, stretching and strengthening are the key to build the muscle back up.


Footballer_recieves_ice_treatment_on_a_calf_injurySWELLING CONTROL: A pulled calf muscle will start to bleed internally straight away. Cold therapy is used as an emergency measure.




If the injury results in a lot of internal bleeding, it can lead to excessive pressure within the compartment of the leg, causing a condition called 'Compartment Syndrome.' This means that the pressure rises to such a level that it stops the blood entering the compartment from the arteries, as the pressure in the compartment exceeds the pressure in the blood vessels.

This is an acute surgical emergency and, if not dealt with quickly, will result in oxygen starvation to the muscles, which will then begin to die off. The treatment for this condition is surgical and requires decompression of the compartment to relieve the pressure and allow blood to flow back into the muscle. This is rare but should still be looked at if you have a 'dead' calf for longer than usual. 

Final Note

Most football injuries to the calf though are strains, pulls and tears (soft tissue). All of these injuries can be treated quickly and effectively; the player can return to the action fairly quickly and will make a full recovery.