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The lower leg consists of two bones and several muscles which control the movement of the foot and ankle. The two bones that make up the leg are the tibia and fibula. The tibia is on the inside of the leg and joins with the thigh bone to form the knee joint. Both the tibia and fibula form part of the ankle joint. Running down the back of the leg there are two muscles and the Achilles tendon.
The larger gastrocnemius muscle runs from above the knee and connects to the heel through the Achilles tendon. The smaller soleus muscle sits below the gastrocnemius and also connects to the Achilles tendon. Both these muscles lift the heel to allow forward motion.
The Achilles tendon is the thickest and strongest in the body but is at risk to injury in sports involving bursts of activity. Bursts of activity in sport can be a root cause of many injuries, such a calf injury where damage to the muscle can occur as a result of failing to warm up properly before setting off on a run or a sprint up the wing on a football pitch. There are several muscles which run down the front of the fibula and they control the movement of the foot. As with all muscles and tendons, overuse can cause damage and lead to injury.
Two of the most common lower leg injuries among both amateurs and professionals alike include shin splints or muscle strains in the form of a calf injury:
Shin Splints - Shin splints are an injury usually felt during or after exercise, particularly running. The pain is on the inside of the leg and usually begins as a dull ache but can progress to become more painful. It is thought that the pain from shin splints occurs due to intense or increased exercise that the body is not used to. Running on hard surfaces or in ill-fitting shoes may also put you at risk of developing the condition. Other factors which increase the risk of shin splints include being overweight, having weak ankles or tight calves and Achilles tendons. People with flat feet or those who roll their foot when walking and running are also at greater risk.
Calf Injuries - A strain occurs when the muscle fibres are stretched beyond their limit. This can cause the calf injury through a tear or even complete rupture. This may be due to overuse, or sudden actions such as sprinting. The severity of the strain can range from tightness and slight pain after the activity to a complete rupturing of the muscle; this will cause a sudden stabbing pain and an inability to walk without pain.