How to Stop Muscle Tears in Calves When Playing Basketball
A calf muscle tear can have you sitting on the bench for the remainder of basketball season. Severe tears can be debilitating and require surgery, but even minor tears can worsen if not rested. Preventing a calf strain is easier than treating it, so take precautions for a pain-free game and stay on the court.
Warm-up your muscles before playing basketball. Basketball requires quick movements from your calf muscles, and cold muscles have an increased risk of tearing. A 10-minute brisk walk or light jog before playing sufficiently warms your muscles and makes it easier for you calves to adapt to physical impact from basketball. Dress warm if you play in cold weather to reduce muscle tension.
Perform strength training on your calves. Improper conditioning decreases the endurance of your muscles and results in muscle fatigue. If muscles are fatigued, basketball drills place too much stress on the calf muscle. Calf raises are simple and effective for strengthening your calves. To perform calf raises, stand with your feet flat on the floor and about 6 inches apart. Hold a wall or railing for support. Raise your body onto the balls of your foot so you're on your toes and hold this position for five seconds and lower your heel to the ground. Repeat this up-and-down motion for 15 repetitions. You can increase the intensity by holding dumbbells or a barbell.
Stretch after playing basketball. Stretching causes stress to the muscles by creating small microscopic tears in the muscle. The tear and recovery cycle of stretching is beneficial to improve flexibility, but only if stretches are completed after basketball and not before. Because stretching temporarily stresses the muscle, it should never be followed by powerful or intense physical activity; this increases the risk of muscle strain. To stretch your calf, place your palms flat on a wall at shoulder height. Keep your arms and back straight. Step back with your left leg so your feet are about 2 feet apart in a splits stance. Keep both feet flat on the floor. Bend your right knee toward the wall while bringing your nose about 3 inches from the wall. Press your left heel into the ground. Hold for 30 seconds. You should feel tension in your calf but no pain. If the stretch is painful, release some tension before holding the pose.
Learn proper techniques by consulting with your basketball coach. If you're prone to calf muscle tears, something is wrong. If you regularly stretch, condition your calf muscles and warm up before games, there's likely an error with your game. Consider previous tears and determine if a pattern exists, such as the tear occurring while changing directions, accelerating before jumps or running on the court. An informed and knowledgeable coach will work with you to correct improper technique.
Wear comfortable and supportive athletic shoes with cushioned insoles to reduce calf strain.
Always play basketball on an even surface that's free of rocks and other debris.
Stay hydrated while playing because dehydration has been linked to calf cramps.
Never play basketball while experiencing calf pain because you can worsen an existing injury.
Always consult with a doctor to ensure you're in adequate physical health to exercise and play basketball.
- Core Performance: Avoid a Calf Muscle Strain
- Full-Body Flexibility: For Optimal Mobility and Strength; Jay Blahnik
- NYU Langone Medical Center: Calf Muscle Strain
Melissa McNamara is a certified personal trainer who holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and communication studies from the University of Iowa. She writes for various health and fitness publications while working toward a Bachelor of Science in nursing.