Calf strain injuries. Am I getting old?

Are you an older athlete that has started to have issues with your calves?

You are not alone. Research into calf injuries is limited. There have not been the number of studies that we see in other areas of injury, such as the hamstring. With this in mind a recent systematic review by Brady Green and Tanya Pizzari out of Latrobe University showed that there are only a few confirmed risk factors that increase calf muscle strain injuries. These are increasing age and previous calf muscle strain injuries.

Why is this?

There are a few theories as to why increasing age increases your risk. The main theory that is put forward is the change in muscle changes associated with age. These include sarcopenia (more likely as hormonal changes start >40 years of age) as well as the change in the distribution of muscle fibre type as we age. Unless trained to maintain fast twitch fibre distributions, there is a general tendency to lose fast twitch fibre type cross sectional area. Given that the explosive nature of most running based sports, the reduction in the explosive characteristics of the calf complex, leaves it susceptible to damage under tight force activities such as jumping, accelerations or change of direction.

With regard to previous injuries there is some conjecture as to why risk increases so dramatically if you have had a previous injury. We have evidence that shows that reductions in strength and power characteristics often remain months and even years after a muscle injury in some cases. It begs the question. Is this inevitable or is this due to poor or incomplete rehabilitation?

With these risk factors in mind there are some key things that can be done to reduce the likelihood of re-injury in the future. In our next blog we will discuss what you can do.