First described in 1883, "Tennis Leg" refers to an injury to the inner part of the calf muscle or the plantaris muscle. It is often times experienced by recreational tennis players during a sudden push-off or change of direction which places a quick increase in tension on the calf muscles.
The player will usually feel a sharp pain, and many report feeling as if they were hit in the back of the leg with a ball. After a short time the player will start to experience pain and weakness when trying to stand on their tip toes or push off of their foot. Bruising and swelling at the back of the leg are also commonly seen.
How is it Diagnosed?
Most of the time a diagnosis can be made by doing a thorough history and physical examination. Exact extent of injury can be made by MRI or diagnostic ultrasound imaging.
How is it Treated?
Conservative treatment is usually recommended and full recovery can be expected to take a few months.
Initially we want to provide a good environment for healing to take place while maintaining mobility at the affected knee and ankle. Soft tissue massage, swelling control, and gentle range of motion exercises are appropriate.
As healing progresses we will gradually introduce more resistance exercises, dynamic stability exercises and functional exercises.
In the final stages of rehabilitation we will concentrate on return to sport activities and start to re-introduce tennis activities.
How to Prevent it?
Paying attention to nagging calf pain or repetitive strains that may be a precursor to future, more serious injury.
Proper warm-up routine.
Maintaining adequate mobility at the ankle, knee, and hips.
Wearing proper fitting footwear.
Dr. Eugene Katsnelson DPT
Doctor of Physical Therapy