What Athletes Need to Know About Shin Splints

All Athletes, Especially Runners, Are at Risk of Developing Shin Splints

By Dr. Matthew Zinno, M.D.

Matthew Zinnio

This summer’s weather in Western New York is pretty amazing. Along with the beautiful warm days many people are exercising more, especially those interested in losing weight or involved in summer endurance sports like running and triathlon.

Athletes typically increase volume or intensity as a competition nears and can be more prone to injury. One such injury is shin splints. Also known as medial tibial stress syndrome, shin splints are a condition marked by pain in the shinbone, also known as the tibia. Shin splints are common among all types of athletes, but are most prevalent in runners, dancers and triathletes who spend much of their time performing pounding activities on their feet.

In general, shin splints are caused by repetitive stress on the shinbone and related connective tissues that attach muscles to the bone. As exercise volume and/or intensity increases more stress is created. If one’s body cannot adjust, the area can be overstressed and become painful. Shin splints are characterized by tenderness, swelling, soreness, and/or pain along the inner part of the lower leg.

Female runner clutching her shin because of a running injury and inflammation. Tibial periostitis hurt while jogging on beach.

Shin splints are common in runners, dancers and triathletes.

Most athletes and those who exercise regularly create changes in their bodies and can adjust to slow gradual increases in volume or intensity. When increases are changed drastically, the body has difficulty adjusting and may not be able to absorb the additional stress. We all want to exercise more and compete harder, but we also need to be smart about our training and realize rest is needed for the body to adapt and heal.

Most shin splints can be relieved by over-the-counter pain relievers, ice, stretching, use of proper footwear and ultimately rest and/or training modifications. If these prove ineffective at managing pain, athletes should contact their physicians. Doctors will likely try to determine if the pain is caused by something other than shin splints, such as a stress fracture, tendonitis or other related causes.

About the Author:
Dr. Matthew Zinno is a fellowship-trained sports medicine orthopedic surgeon at Northtowns Orthopedics. His practice focuses on sports medicine related issues involving acute and overuse injuries of the musculoskeletal system. He is also a 15-time Ironman Triathlon Finisher and has been competing in triathlons and endurance events for 16 years. Northtowns Orthopedics has offices in Alden, East Amherst, Ellicottville, Tonawanda and Williamsville. Call 716-204-2550 or 716-636-1470 and visit www.northtownsorthopedics.com.