Jock Doc

How long will it take for my calf injury to heal?

Q. I am a 33-year-old recreational athlete who was playing basketball last week and felt a pop in my right calf. I thought someone kicked me in the calf but no one was close to me.

I had severe pain and went to the urgent care, and my X rays were negative. I was told that I have a calf muscle injury. The urgent care center gave me crutches and instructed me to see an orthopedic surgeon. I am waiting for an appointment, and was wondering how long it takes to get better and resume sports?

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Diagram showing a person’s torn Achilles tendon; In 2012, NBA Los Angeles Clippers guard Chauncey Billups was out for the season with a torn Achilles tendon. Broderick Turner Los Angeles Times/MCT

A: It is very common, particularly in men ages 35-50, to injure a calf muscle or the Achilles tendon. There are three calf muscles that come together down your leg to form the Achilles tendon.

If the Achilles tendon is injured, that results in weakness of all three calf muscles, making it difficult to walk. Recuperation is generally six months to one year and frequently requires surgery to fix.

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If only one of the muscles is injured above the Achilles tendon, the recovery time is much faster. Since only one muscle is involved, the other muscles can still function normally during the healing process.

Calf muscle injuries are divided into three categories. The first, a micro tear of the muscle, usually resolves in a couple of days. A partial tear of a calf muscle usually takes a couple weeks to heal. And lastly, a complete tear of a muscle can frequently take one to two months to heal.

All of these calf muscle injuries are treated initially with rest and physical therapy to reduce swelling, regain motion, improve strength and to improve flexibility. Once better, an athlete should be on a flexibility and stretching program to decrease the risk of re-injury, which can approach 25% of patients.

Your physician will determine the severity of your injury and give you a time frame for recovery.

Dr. Harlan Selesnick is team physician of the Miami Heat and director of Miami Sports Medicine Fellowship, Doctors Hospital. Send your questions to HarlanS@baptisthealth.net.

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