Why are calf problems causing Takehiro Tomiyasu so much

LONDON, ENGLAND – DECEMBER 02: Takehiro Tomiyasu of Arsenal takes on Hugo Bueno of Wolverhampton Wanderers during the Premier League match between Arsenal FC and Wolverhampton Wanderers at Emirates Stadium on December 02, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

Understanding calf injuries in football

Arsenal’s recent 3-2 victory against Luton was dulled somewhat by injury concerns for defender Takehiro Tomiyasu.

Manager Mikel Arteta revealed in his post-match comments that Tomiyasu, who has become a key part of Arsenal’s defence, suffered a serious calf injury.

The extent of the injury, confirmed by a scan, implies that Tomiyasu will be sidelined for an extended period and he is expected to miss the festive period.

Why calf problems can be particularly troublesome for elite players

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 03: Takehiro Tomiyasu of Arsenal is seen injured before being substituted off during the UEFA Europa League group A match between Arsenal FC and FC Zürich at Emirates Stadium on November 03, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND – NOVEMBER 03: Takehiro Tomiyasu of Arsenal is seen injured before being substituted off during the UEFA Europa League group A match between Arsenal FC and FC Zürich at Emirates Stadium on November 03, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

Calf injuries are a common yet often troublesome issue for top-level footballers.

The nature of the sport, which demands intense physical exertion, rapid changes in direction, and frequent bursts of speed, places significant strain on the lower leg muscles, especially the calf.

The calf muscle: essential but vulnerable

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 16: Mikel Arteta, Manager of Arsenal, speaks to Takehiro Tomiyasu of Arsenal as he leaves the pitch after picking up an injury during the UEFA Europa League round of 16 leg two match between Arsenal FC and Sporting CP at Emirates Stadium on March 16, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND – MARCH 16: Mikel Arteta, Manager of Arsenal, speaks to Takehiro Tomiyasu of Arsenal as he leaves the pitch after picking up an injury during the UEFA Europa League round of 16 leg two match between Arsenal FC and Sporting CP at Emirates Stadium on March 16, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

The calf muscle, primarily comprising the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles, plays a crucial role in football.

It’s pivotal for actions like sprinting, jumping, and quick changes in direction.

However, this importance also makes it vulnerable. During a match, the calf muscle undergoes constant stress, making it prone to strains or tears.

The high-stakes of top-level football

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 28: Takehiro Tomiyasu of Arsenal scores the team's fifth goal during the Premier League match between Arsenal FC and Sheffield United at Emirates Stadium on October 28, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND – OCTOBER 28: Takehiro Tomiyasu of Arsenal scores the team’s fifth goal during the Premier League match between Arsenal FC and Sheffield United at Emirates Stadium on October 28, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

At the elite level, there’s an immense pressure to perform at peak physical condition.

The intensity of training and matches means players often push their bodies to the limit.

This can lead to overuse, where muscles become fatigued and more susceptible to injury.

The challenge of healing and recurrence

Arsenal's Japanese defender #18 Takehiro Tomiyasu controls the ball past Brentford's French-born DR Congo striker #11 Yoane Wissa during the English League Cup third round football match between Brentford and Arsenal at the Brentford Community Stadium in London on September 27, 2023. (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images)
Arsenal’s Japanese defender #18 Takehiro Tomiyasu controls the ball past Brentford’s French-born DR Congo striker #11 Yoane Wissa during the English League Cup third round football match between Brentford and Arsenal at the Brentford Community Stadium in London on September 27, 2023. (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images)

Calf injuries can be notoriously slow to heal due to the muscle’s constant use in everyday activities.

Even walking can prolong recovery.

This can be frustrating for players, who are eager to return to the pitch but risk re-injury if they come back too soon.

The risk of recurrence is high because even a minor calf strain can leave the muscle slightly weaker or less flexible, making it more prone to future injuries.

The role of rehabilitation and prevention

BRENTFORD, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 27: Takehiro Tomiyasu of Arsenal sprays water on his face during the Carabao Cup Third Round match between Brentford and Arsenal at Gtech Community Stadium on September 27, 2023 in Brentford, England. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
BRENTFORD, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 27: Takehiro Tomiyasu of Arsenal sprays water on his face during the Carabao Cup Third Round match between Brentford and Arsenal at Gtech Community Stadium on September 27, 2023 in Brentford, England. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Recovery from a calf injury isn’t just about healing the muscle; it’s about strengthening it to prevent future issues.

This involves a careful balance of rest, physiotherapy, and gradually increasing exercise intensity.

However, given the competitive nature of top-level football, there’s often a tension between adequate recovery and the desire to return to play.

The psychological impact

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 08: Takehiro Tomiyasu of Arsenal (R) and Erik Lamela of Sevilla FC battle for the ball during the UEFA Champions League match between Arsenal FC and Sevilla FC at Emirates Stadium on November 08, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND – NOVEMBER 08: Takehiro Tomiyasu of Arsenal (R) and Erik Lamela of Sevilla FC battle for the ball during the UEFA Champions League match between Arsenal FC and Sevilla FC at Emirates Stadium on November 08, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Repeated calf injuries can also have a psychological effect on players.

The fear of re-injury can impact their performance, making them more tentative on the field.

This, in turn, can lead to altered playing styles that might inadvertently increase the risk of other injuries.

Conclusion

Calf injuries in top-level footballers are a significant concern due to the essential function of these muscles in the sport and the high demands placed on them.

The key to managing these injuries lies in a holistic approach: understanding the need for complete healing, effective rehabilitation, and the psychological impact of recurrent injuries.

As sports science evolves, so do the strategies to prevent and manage such injuries, but the challenge remains a significant aspect of modern football.

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