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Signs of a Torn Ligament in the Calf

author image Steve Kim
Based in San Francisco, Steve Kim has been a health and medicine topic writer for several well known websites, beginning in 2007. She is also a published poet, having been published in the National Library of Poetry annual anthology in the '90s. He is an academic physician and medical writer, and also teaches anatomy, physiology and pharmacology.
Signs of a Torn Ligament in the Calf
Explosive athletic moves might tear an Achilles tendon.

The calf is the muscle component in the back of a person’s lower leg. It is comprised of two muscles: gastrocnemius (main part) and the soleus. When a person says, “I tore a ligament in my calf,” he really means that he tore his Achilles tendon, as this is the primary ligament that controls the calf. Since this is the proper clinical term, “torn Achilles tendon” will be inserted in place of “torn ligament of the calf.” Torn Achilles tendon is a fairly common sports injury and usually occurs when someone pushes off their heel with an explosive force; leaping high to grab a rebound in basketball is a typical example. Various signs can point to having a torn Achilles tendon.

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Soft Spot on the Achilles

When the patient palpates along the Achilles, he will likely feel a crevice or soft spot, which corresponds to the location of the tear. Most of the Achilles tendon is firm and rigid, so the softness at the area of the tear should be clearly discernible. He may describe the region as feeling “spongy.”

Sudden Calf Pain

A sudden and sharp pain could occur either in the back of the calf or at the Achilles tendon area (patient might say, “I feel like I got whacked or popped back there.”) Though the pain tends to lessen after the first hour, it will persist for days, or even weeks, until the injured gets proper medical treatment. The pain will worsen if he tries to keep walking on the affected leg.

Calf Swelling

Patient will have noticeable swelling on the back of the leg, between the calf and heel. The swelling will vary, but if she looks at both her calves, she will easily identify that the affected calf is swollen and tender to touch.

Difficulty With Walking

He will have difficulty accomplishing certain physical maneuvers. Walking (on the affected leg) for more than a few steps (especially uphill), standing on tiptoes, and pushing down on the gas pedal of a car will all be next to impossible.

Snapping Sensation in the Calf

She will often complain of a “snapping” or “popping” sensation in the lower calf when the injury first occurs. She may even state that she feels like she tore a muscle or tendon in her lower leg area.

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  • "Oxford Textbook of Sports Medicine, Second Edition"; Mark Harries, MD; 1998
  • "Medscape Journal"; Achilles Tendon Rupture--Differential Diagnosis and Workup; Brian A. Jacobs; June 2009
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