Return to play and recurrence after calf muscle strain injuries in elite Australian football players

Review written by Dr Teddy Willsey info

Key Points

  1. Despite being less common than strains to the muscles of the thigh, calf muscle strains carry a seasonal prevalence as high as 6% in elite soccer players.
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Calf muscle strains are one of the most common soft tissue injuries reported in field sports. Despite being less common than injuries to the hamstrings, adductors and quadriceps, calf muscle strains still carry a season prevalence as high as 6%, and a recurrence rate of up to 15% in elite soccer players (1,2).

During the course of rehabilitation, prognostication and utilization of objective return to sport criteria can assist clinicians in critical return to play decision making. Premature return following calf muscle strains may result in prolonged or incomplete recovery (3).

The goals of this study were to describe MRI findings of calf muscle strains at the time of injury and during recovery, and to determine if clinical and MRI data is associated with time to return to play (RTP) and recurrence.

Calf muscle strains have a recurrence rate of up to 15% in elite soccer players.
Information on injury history and mechanism of injury can help illuminate priority areas during rehabilitation as well as influence RTP times.


Clinical data and MRI reports were collected over the course of 4 consecutive seasons using standardized classification and reporting methods. Clinicians reported on player demographics, relevant injury history, mechanism of injury (MOI), and the outcome measures used of days to

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