What are shin splints?
Although many footy players suffer from shin splints, the best plan is unclear for many players.
“What can I do for my shin splints?” is consistently one of my most commonly asked questions!Shin splints describes pain and inflammation along the shin bone (tibia) as a result of muscle, tendon or bone damage to the area.
The pain is usually felt in the lower leg and typically worsens the more you try to play on it – until becoming so severe that you are forced to sit on the bench. It’s very frustrating!
Most of the time shin splints develop due to a sudden increase in training volume combined with repetitively training on hard, unforgiving, high impact surfaces.
Does a time trial during your first preseason training ring any bells?
What do shin splints feel like?
Shin pain is experienced in the lower leg, either in the posterior or anterior areas as shown.
What does it feel like?
It’s different for each player. For most of my footy clients it ranges from aching and burning to sharp pain. Sometimes there is pulling or tightness.
The pain usually occurs during activity rather than when resting. Often, it can become more sore as you push through!
When left unmanaged, shin pain can start to impact you more than just during the game. Over time, the pain increases in frequency and intensity so that it is continuous through exercising and lasts for hours or even days afterwards.
10 reasons why shin splints happen in footy
- Boots don’t fit well
- Boots lack support
- Previous injury often ankles & knees
- No warm up
- Tight calves or Achilles tendon
- Lack of core, glute and quad strength
- Poor ankle stability
- Weak foot arch muscles
- Spikes in training
- Being overweight
Why do footy players get shin splints?
Footy players do a LOT of running! You could argue there is a high cardio capacity these days which is just as important as the skills side of the game! When a player does not have the capacity to deal with running, together with the strain from tackles and kicking, this adds up to an accumulated overall load. The legs just can’t cope!
When the shin bone is stressed, in order to become stronger, it begins a process of remodelling and during this re-formation the bone actually becomes more prone to injury. The causes a vicious cycle which doesn’t heal!
The biggest myth about shin splints – rest fixes it!!
The most obvious thing to do is to rest, a no-brainer right?The problem with rest is that it doesn’t fix the underlying cause of your pain and normally when you start running again the pain returns. With rest footy players quickly lose their strength, capacity and endurance. This causes more issues and places players at higher injury risk!
How do Podiatrists fix shin splints in footy players?
- Running gait analysis – to find and fix any biomechanical issues that may be contributing to your pain
- Shockwave therapy – a machine that sends acoustic waves through your sore muscle areas, promoting healing and desensitising pain
- Dry needling – release of tight calf and shin muscles
- Orthotics – to support and control your foot movement, decreasing the load through your leg muscles and providing shock absorption – yes these are footy boot friendly too!
- Individualised strength programs – stronger muscles means your shins are able to handle more impact with running
- Boot assessment – to determine the right boot for your foot type and playing position
Joe’s tips for returning to footy:
- Prepare: Conditioning is an essential part of a solid preseason
- Recovery: Continue release work through the season. Be consistent with dynamic warm ups & cool down.
- Plan: Gradually return to running a full game