Sports Chatter: Shin Splints

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Written by Brooke Brummeler, PT Solutions Certified Athletic Trainer

Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (MTSS), also known as shin splints, are a common overuse injury that can affect any age athlete or physically active person. The pain most often occurs on the front part of the lower leg, but it can also be referred to the inside portion of the leg as well. Shin splits are associated with sharp pain, which can occur at any time in an athlete’s training. However, the pain usually sets in when the athlete begins a new workout or is in a poorly conditioned physical state. The pain originates from the inflammation of the periosteum (sheath surrounding the bone) of the tibia. Overworked soft tissue is the cause, and the constant pull of muscles surrounding the tibia perpetuates the discomfort. The inflammation can be linked to: poor biomechanics, worn-out or improper footwear, or a poorly conditioned body.

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Biomechanical issues are linked to shin splints, and for preventative purposes, it is very important to look at the athlete’s biomechanics and understand the proper form. Common biomechanical involve: over pronation of the foot, when the foot rolls inwards too much flattening the arch of the foot and causing the lower leg to rotate inward; over supination of the foot, which occurs when the foot rolls outwards too much during the time the foot is in contact with the ground; flat feet or a very rigid arch can place more stress on the lower leg, predisposing the athlete to shin splints. Properly fitting footwear is central to preventing shin splits. PTS Sports, located in Acworth, specializes in the fitting of athletic footwear. Furthermore, a sudden change in an athlete’s workout can cause of shin splints; new training regiments or advancing too fast in a program can place excessive  force on the periosteum which will cause pain.

Signs and symptoms of shin splints include: pain in front portion of lower leg (the pain is often a sharp razor like feeling), inflammation and pain when foot and ankle are pointed downward. The discomfort may occur at any point of training. The diagnosis of shin splints is fairly easy, but experts recommend an athlete see an orthopedic doctor for diagnosis. An x-ray is needed to rule out any stress fractures or damage to the bone. After an athlete has been diagnosed with shin splints, it is important that either a home exercise plan or physical therapy plan is implemented.

At PT Solutions, our therapists specialize in treating the athlete. PT Solutions can help treat shin splints in many ways. Our therapists provide the most up-to-date, evidence-based treatments. The primary goal of treatment is to get the athlete back to their sport and lead a pain-free life as quick and safely as possible.