I have been treating calf injuries in runners for 10 years. I thought I had seen it all, in addition to the usual suspects like Achilles tendonitis and tendonosis I have successfully treated ruptured Achilles tendons, Soleus tendonosis and Haglund’s Deformities (pump bumps) the size of walnuts. I recently had a humbling experience that was also an “Ah Ha” moment. A patient had presented with a long history of bilateral calf pain that would come and go. He stated that after he turned forty years old he consistently started having random but severe pain in his calf(s) while running. He explained that he would be running along and all of a sudden either one or the other of his calves would begin to tighten up and would feel as if it was going to “snap”. Of course this sensation of wanting to tear would cause him to stop running and rest between a few days to a few weeks. This person was quite frustrated because this had been going on for 16 years and he had sought treatment from every kind of doctor and therapist there was without any change in his condition! Oddly, he had never had an MRI. We decided that we would get the MRI before starting any kind of treatment. I explained that I would be looking for either entrapment of his Popliteal artery which may explain his condition or the existence of a Plantaris muscle which also could account for his long standing symptoms. If this patient had presented to our clinic and this had been the first time his symptoms had appeared we would have diagnosed and treated him with a simple Gastrocnemius strain but because of the duration (16 years) and seemingly random occurrence of his symptoms I began to think about more obscure diagnosis but that still would make sense hence the Popliteal Artery entrapment and Plantaris concepts. Interestingly this individual had also been the second person in a year to describe almost the exact set of symptoms. This also triggered me to start extensively researching the various possibilities.
When the MRI came back I was not surprised. It showed exactly what the last patients MRI showed….”scarring of the medial Gastrocnemius tendon along the junction with the Plantaris tendon” with everything else showing as normal. This description by the radiologist is 100% consistent with the patient’s description of his injury. I believe that over time the Plantaris tendon has been slowly tearing and separating from its confluence with the Gastroc tendon! After exhaustive research and reading I finally found information that would lead me to believe this is exactly what is happening. The problem is that most of the people that get “Tennis Leg” rupture their Plantaris tendon instead of stopping prior to the rupture! So now it made sense. As the person is running the Gastrocnemius and Plantaris begin to tear or separate. This triggers a myospasm (