Plantar Flexors

The gastrocnemius (gas"trok-ne'me-us) on the back of the leg forms part of the calf. It arises by two heads from the femur. The distal end of this muscle joins the strong cal-caneal tendon (Achilles tendon), which descends to the heel and attaches to the calcaneus. The gastrocnemius is a powerful plantar flexor of the foot that aids in pushing the body forward when a person walks or runs. It also flexes the leg at the knee (figs. 9.40 and 9.41).

Strenuous athletic activity may partially or completely tear the calcaneal (Achilles) tendon. This injury occurs most frequently in middle-aged athletes who run or play sports that involve quick movements and directional changes. A torn calcaneal tendon usually requires surgical treatment.

The soleus (so'le-us) is a thick, flat muscle located beneath the gastrocnemius, and together these two muscles form the calf of the leg. The soleus arises from the tibia and fibula, and it extends to the heel by way of the calcaneal tendon. It acts with the gastrocnemius to cause plantar flexion of the foot (figs. 9.40 and 9.41).

The flexor digitorum longus (flek'sor dij'T-to'rum long'gus) extends from the posterior surface of the tibia to the foot. Its tendon passes along the plantar surface of the foot. There the muscle divides into four parts that attach to the terminal bones of the four lateral toes. This muscle assists in plantar flexion of the foot, flexion of the four lateral toes, and inversion of the foot (fig. 9.41).

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