Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant has been sidelined since Game 5 of the NBA Conference Semi-Finals with an calf strain. MOS Sports Medicine physician Dr. Nicholas Dutcheshen offered his insight on a calf strain and what one can expect when they experience and recover from this injury.
A calf strain is essentially a tear of the gastrocnemius muscle of the calf. It does not involve the Achilles tendon. It usually occurs on the inner (medial) gastrocnemius, higher up on the calf. It is a very common injury and is referred to as “tennis calf.” The injury is the result of an athlete suddenly accelerating, causing the muscle to tear.
These strains can vary in severity. However, as one can imagine, it may take several days or even weeks to heal. Commonly, blood gravitates toward the ankle and foot. The patient reports difficultly walking, especially pushing off.
These strains are easily diagnosed by an orthopedic surgeon through a thorough history and physical examination. Advanced imaging, such as an MRI is almost never needed. Nonetheless, in high level athletes, an MRI may be helpful in predicting a return to play and healing time.
Treatment is always conservative consisting of rest, ice, compression with an ACE bandage, anti-inflammatory medicines and sometimes a walking boot for more severe injuries. Surgery is almost never needed. Return to play occurs once the pain, swelling and bruising all resolve. It is common to continue “tweaking” the injury if return to play occurs too quickly. Stretching the calf muscle well and adequate hydration are the mainstays of prevention of this injury.
In Durant’s case, he likely has a moderate (Grade 2) strain. Nonetheless, other than the above treatments, the injury takes time to heal and there is very little one can do to speed it up.