Tennis Season Is Here - All About a Common Noncontact Injury in the Lower Leg

Huffington Post—May 23, 2009

by Helene Pavlov, MD, FACR
Hospital for Special Surgery

Many indoor and outdoor tennis players are aware of tennis elbow, but few are familiar with the painful and debilitating condition of "tennis leg." This condition is most common in the middle-aged, recreational athlete and is brought on by sudden and abrupt changes in direction often required during game play. In addition to intense pain, patients describe hearing an audible 'pop,' or feeling as though someone has shot them in the back of the leg. The pain will often radiate to the knee or ankle and bruising may occur in the affected area.

The symptoms of "tennis leg" most commonly result from an acute rupture of the Achilles tendon and, less frequently, by a tear in one of the calf muscles, the gastrocnemius muscle, or the plantaris tendon. Distinguishing between these injuries and potentially life threatening conditions can be difficult by physical exam. Douglas Mintz, MD, musculoskeletal radiologist at Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) in New York comments that "MRI, because of its ability to accurately image soft tissue damage, is the most common method for evaluating the affected area. At HSS, we can also perform diagnostic ultrasound, a method of diagnosis that is much less commonly used in this country." Musculoskeletal ultrasound, in trained and experienced hands, can be used to both diagnose and follow musculoskeletal injures during the rehabilitation period.

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