Miguel Cabrera, the Detroit Tigers 1st baseman and big hitter, painfully took off from 1st base during a hit and run in the 4th inning of the July 3rd game against the Toronto Blue Jays. The Tigers went on to win but learned after an MRI that they would lose Cabrera for 6 weeks due to a calf strain. Reports say that he has a grade 3 strain of the calf muscle, which is the worst of the strains. It must be a bad injury because this is Cabrera’s first stint on the disabled list in his 12 year career. He has played with a fractured navicular in his foot, anterior ankle spurs, and a core muscle tear, all of which required surgery in the off season. Cabrera was batting .350 in 77 games, including 16 doubles, 15 home runs and 54 RBIs.
The calf muscle is comprised of two separate muscles, the gastroc and soleus, that come together to form the largest tendon in the body, the Achilles. They are the main plantar flexors, aka push off power, for the lower extremities. Injuries are usually the result of a sudden push off force, an over stretching of the muscle, or changing of direction, and can occur no matter how strong the muscle. Strains are graded from 1 to 3, three being the most severe. Grade 1 involves 10% of the muscle belly, and the athlete feels mild discomfort but can still continue playing. The next day the calf may be tight and sore but usually resolves in 4-5 days. Grade 2 can involve up to 90% of the muscle fibers and pain is felt when walking or pushing off; some swelling and bruising may also be seen. These injuries can make the calf very tight and deeper achy pain can be present for 1-2 weeks or more. Immediately after a Grade 3 tear the athlete feels sharp pain which can involve a partial or full rupture of the muscle. Swelling and bruising normally occur and it is painful to fire the muscle. Only when the muscle is fully torn is surgery indicated.
Unfortunately, calf strains like Miguel Cabrera’s just take time to heal. Rest is the most important thing for him at this time. Already, Cabrera has undergone Platlet Rich Plasma (PRP) therapy, which concentrates his own blood and injects the important healing factors back into the calf. He has also spent time in the hyperbaric oxygen chamber to help increased the amount of oxygen getting to his calf, increasing his healing potential. Lastly he has a heel lift in the boot he is wearing to make sure the calf muscle doesn’t stretch too much while he walks during his recovery. The tendon is not involved so no surgery will be needed, but it will take at least 6-8 weeks to heal fully. Lots of rehabilitation will also be needed to regain the ability to push off his left leg. Even with all the advanced technology at the fingertips of Tigers’ Athletic Trainer Kevin Rand, it will still take time for Cabrera’s soft tissues to heal. Rand is hopeful that Cabrera will be back at the 6 week mark.
I myself have also suffered a calf strain in the past and it was very painful! I am hopeful too that Miguel will return quickly, but I am not so sure. The team will definitely miss him in the meantime. Go Tigers!