How to prevent shinsplints

With kids playing multiple organized sports or on several different teams, overuse injuries such as shinsplints in children have been on the rise. Shinsplints often occur in runners — but they can happen in sports such as football, soccer and others that require quick, cutting and sideways motions. How do you help your child prevent shinsplints?

What are shinsplints?

Shinsplints, also called medial tibial stress syndrome, refers to pain that runs along the shinbone or tibia. This pain is caused by inflammation of the muscles and outer part of the shinbone called the periosteum. The condition most often is caused by being overactive, especially with running. They can happen with increased activity, such as the beginning of a sports season, wearing overused shoes or increasing running mileage too quickly. Children and teens with flat feet or very high arches in their feet may be more at risk for shinsplints.

Shinsplint symptoms

With shinsplints, children and teens often notice that they have pain in the front and/or side of their shinbone. The condition can progress through stages, including:

  • The pain will hurt mildly during activity, such as playing a sport.
  • As more damage occurs when left untreated, a child experiences constant pain during movement.
  • After significant damage occurs, a child will have constant symptoms without any activity.

If left untreated, a child can experience complications such as a stress fracture.

Norton Children’s Orthopedics of Louisville, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine

Connect with Norton Children’s Orthopedics of Louisville.

(502) 394-5678

How to prevent shinsplints

Like many overuse injuries, prevention comes with following guidelines set by a child’s sport, coaches and family. Encouraging rest and recovery as an important part of an athlete’s training is key. Working and practicing is important, but rest is just as important too, and may help ease some of the frustration a child may have of wanting to continue playing or running while injured. Athletes should be coached to:

  • Stretch and properly warm up before practicing.
  • Rest for a day a week.
  • Cross-train or play other sports — children are specializing in one sport at younger and younger ages. Playing a variety of sports and incorporating other movement can help prevent injuries.
  • Vary exercises and practice drills — muscle memory can improve if there is variety in movement.

Shinsplint symptoms aren’t always preventable. Here are some things that can help give relief quickly:

  • Anti-inflammatories after practice/play
  • Wearing a calf sleeve or wrap during play for comfort
  • Proper hydration prior to and during completion/practice
  • Running on the grass instead of a hard surface (if possible) can also be of some benefit

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