How Bad Is My Calf Strain?

Calf strain diagnosis

Calf strain injuries are categorised into grade 1, 2 or 3 depending on severity. Our simple diagnosis quiz below can help determine how bad your injury is.

Calf strain diagnosis quiz

Remember I do not replace a real person and always recommend seeking professional advice. This is not intended to diagnose calf pain, only estimate the severity of a calf muscle tear.


Did you notice pain at the time of injury?

Did you have any swelling?

Could you carry on training or playing?

How was it the following day?

Does it hurt to stand on tiptoes?

Do you have a gap or deformity in the muscle?

How bad is my calf strain?
You might have a Grade 1 Calf Strain
I think you might have a Grade 2 Calf Strain
I think you may have a Grade 3 Calf Strain

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Mild Grade 1 injuries

  • A Grade 1 strain is a minor tear of the muscle with less than 25% of the muscle fibres affected.
  • You may complain of a twinge in the back of the lower leg, or simply a feeling of tightness.
  • You may be able to carry on playing or competing with minimal pain. However, there is likely to be more tension or aching in the calf muscle after, which may take up to 24 hours to develop.
  • Grade 1 injuries can easily turn into grade 2 strains if they are underestimated or ignored. It is wise to stop exercising if the ache/pain does not settle down within 24 hours of exercise.

Moderate Grade 2 injuries

  • Grade 2 strains are more severe, with between 25% and 90% of the muscle fibres torn.
  • A sudden sharp pain at the back of the lower leg, with swelling likely.
  • Bruising may develop over the following couple of days.
  • Pain is felt on resisted plantar flexion (pushing up onto the toes) and there will be significant weakness in the muscle.

A grade 1 strain can easily turn into a grade 2 strain if they are not treated properly or ignored.

Severe Grade 3 injuries

  • Grade 3 injuries are the most severe and involve 90 to 100% of the muscle fibres.
  • A complete tear is often referred to as a rupture.
  • There will be severe and immediate pain at the back of the lower leg.
  • The athlete may complain of a ‘pop’ sensation at the time of injury.
  • They will be unable to walk, or If they can they will walk with a significant limp.
  • Swelling will develop rapidly within an hour or so and bruising is also likely to be visible.
  • This is as a result of the torn muscle fibres and associated blood vessels. A gap or deformity in the muscle may be visible as the torn fibres bunch up towards the knee.
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This article has been written with reference to the bibliography.
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