Plantaris Tendon

What You Should Know about the Plantaris Tendon

There is little on the human body that is considered to be inconsequential, yet the plantaris tendon is just that.  Most individuals don’t even realize their body contains this tendon, at least until it sustains an injury. 

Where it is

This tendon is located on the back of the calf, underneath the gastrocnemius (located at the back of the knee) and the soleus muscles.  It stretches between the plantaris muscle at the upper part of the calf down to the Achilles tendon at the lower part. 

What it is

Tendons are sturdy bands of connective tissue which are designated to connect muscle to bone.  Their toughness allows them to hold up under immense tension; in some cases, up to more than five times the body weight of the individual.  Tendons assist in the movements of many parts of the body.  When muscles contract, the tendons pull on the bones.  The plantaris is considered to be a small tendon, and not as vital to leg function as the Achilles is.  It is as thin as a pencil and approximately as long. 

Susceptibility to injury

Although the tendon may not be apparent to most individuals during normal function, it will certainly become evident when and if it is injured.  Injuries to tendons are not common due to their tensile strength, but do indeed occur.  Avulsion is the name of a condition where the tendon pulls away from the bone to which it is attached.  Rupture of the tendon is truly rare; a complete separation of part of the tendon from its remaining part.  Tendonitis is an inflammation of the tendon.  Tears occurring to this tendon are often referred to as “tennis leg”; the diverse motions required during the play of the game of tennis places extreme stress on the legs, including the tendons. 

When injury is inflicted upon the plantaris, its previous insignificance disappears.  In its place, intense pain emerges.  In some cases, an audible “snap” or “pop” can be heard from the tendon’s separation, followed by a vicious, stabbing pain in the calf.  Swelling may be experienced.  Diagnosis of the injury will likely first entail ruling out damage to the Achilles tendon, which is a much more vital tendon, through a series of tests. 

Addition uses for the Plantaris tendon

An interesting fact about this small, seemingly insignificant tendon is in its value for harvesting and implantation to correct and repair other tendons.  In particular, the use of this tendon for reconstructing tendons in the hand and the Achilles tendon is common.  Harvesting the tendon is done through a tiny incision over the Achilles tendon, through which a tendon harvester is used to release the plantaris at a junction called myotendinous. 

Preventative care of the tendon

Because of the intense pain felt when the plantaris suffers injury, it is beneficial to ensure that injury does not occur.  Individuals who plan to participate in a sport or physical activity, especially when the extensive use of the legs is called for, must sufficiently warm up the muscles and tendons before engaging in play.  Stretching gently and slowly allows the muscles and tendons to expand safely before being used.  If pain is experienced in the calf, whether stabbing or intermittent pain, it should be brought to your doctor’s attention before the condition worsens.

The human body is an amazing contraption of smooth mobility and flexibility that we humans more often than not take for advantage.  Knowing our capabilities, we expect to be able to launch ourselves into activities and that our body will respond.  Elements such as the plantaris tendon may seem inconsequential when working optimally, yet face painful consequences when injury occurs due to lack of preparation.