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The Sports Doctor: Muscle pulls common for tennis players

Whether you are tennis pro or a weekend warrior, muscle pulls and tendon tears are a common occurrence. As you play, the muscles are rapidly contracting against resistance. The harder you play, the greater the force causing the muscle fibers to tear. In some cases, a complete rupture of the muscle-tendon apparatus is possible.

The majority of leg muscles insert into the foot. Any muscle can tear or rupture; the most common muscle is the plantaris muscle, which originates above the knee and inserts into the heel joining the Achilles tendon. The plantaris has no real vital function as the adjacent gastronomies and soleus muscles team up with the Achilles tendon for support. However, if the Achilles tendon tears, there is a functional injury to the leg, which can no longer push the foot off the ground. If this occurs, it is important to seek medical attention.

If there is no rupture, then utilize rest, ice, compression and elevation. This will help reduce the pain from swelling and also the black and blue discoloration that comes from bleeding after injury. After using ice for two days, use ice massage for 8-10 minutes, followed by heat for 20 minutes a few times per day. Minor muscle pulls should not be ignored as continued stress in these areas may cause more serious injuries.

Once the injury heals, start rehabilitation with light stretching and strengthening exercises.

Prevention of tennis leg requires a re-evaluation of training methods to avoid excessive stress on the injured arca. It is also necessary to do warm-up and cool-down exercises. Also, any biomechanical foot imbalances and excessive pronation and inward rotation of the foot, which will pull the leg muscles, should be corrected with foot inserts. By following proper techniques, many of the injuries can be minimized.

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Dr. Robert F. Weiss

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