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Shin splints

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Shin Splints

by Rick Becker

One of the most common injuries that are experienced in Track and Cross-Country is know as shin splints.  As a high school runner I constantly suffered from them.  My races and workouts were always curtailed.  I was only able to do half of the workouts and races.  My junior year in cross-country was a difficult year.  I suffered from shin splints the entire season. After the state meet, barely able to walk, I went to my family doctor.  He told me that I would never be able to be a runner because of the difficulties that I experienced with shin splints.  In my junior year of track I started the season suffering again from shin splints.  After two weeks into the season my coach told me to turn in my uniform thinking there was no point in training.  Unfortunately I had a coach that knew very little about shin splints.  I missed a lot of running in high school that could have been avoided.  Shin splints can be treated and better yet avoided.

What Are They

Shin splints is a common term used for a half a dozen lower leg problems ranging from nerve irritations to tendonitis to stress fractures.  The most common type that is experienced involves the tearing away of the muscle tissue that attaches to the front of the lower leg.  The beginner runner and the runner that resumes training after a long lay off are most susceptible to this injury.  The connective sheath attached to the muscles and bone of the lower leg become irritated, resulting in a razor-sharp pain in the lower leg along the inside of the tibia or shin bone.  Shin splints can be felt anywhere from just below the knee down to the ankle.  The pain may diminish after warming up but then returns a few minutes after the completion of a workout.

How Are They Caused

There can be several causes for shin splints.  Only when possible causes are identified can shin splints be eliminated.

 Possible causes include:

  • Tight Achilles and calf muscles.

  • An inexperienced runner just beginning to run.

  • Running on uneven terrain.

  • A sudden increase in faster running (speed work).

  • A sudden change from soft to hard running surfaces.

  • Running in worn down shoes.

  • Excessive uphill running.

  • Poor running mechanics which include excessive forward lean, excessive weight on the ball of the foot, running with toes pointed outward, landing too far back on the heels causing the foot to flap down, and overpronation.  There is a drill that I do with my runners at Selah High School called silent running.  I have them run on the track as quiet as possible.  With the feet landing properly very little noise should be heard.  Of all of the possible causes, pronation is the most likely to be overlooked, as it was for me in high school.


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