RACHEL HATCHER is a Sports Therapist and lead coach at Swansea Water Polo Club. Rachel is owner of THE HUB, a sports therapy clinic in the Phoenix Centre, Townhill
“SHIN SPLINTS” ARE A COMMON COMPLAINT IN MANY ATHLETES; IT IS OFTEN A TERM USED TO DESCRIBE SHIN PAIN. THE CORRECT TERM FOR SHIN SPLINTS IS MEDIAL TIBIAL PERIOSTITIS
Anyone can get Medial Tibial Periostitis but it is especially common in athletes that change from one playing surface, change their type of shoes and increase intensity of training on hard surfaces.
An inflammatory reaction occurs due to pulling on the periosteum (outer part of the bone) of the tibia, from either muscles or the fascia which protects and connects the body.
Symptons of Medial Tibial stress syndrome include, pain along the inside of the front of the shin bone, pain first thing in the morning (especially following a day of exercise), pain after exercise which eases after warming up, obvious decrease in pain when resting from exercise.
Pain can vary but generally is quite intense and in some cases you may notice some swelling.
It is best to be properly assessed to ensure that a correct diagnosis has been determined (It is important to rule out stress fractures or chronic posterior deep compartment syndrome).
Follow the RICE protocol which aims to reduce swelling in the area.
Rest – Stop exercise to allow the area to recover (the sooner you stop the quicker the recovery).
Ice – Apply an ice pack or bag of frozen peas to the affected area.
Compression – A compression bandage can be applied.
Elevation – Aim to keep the leg/s up above the heart.
Take anti-inflammatory medication.
Regular massage can help to reduce the tension in the surrounding muscles, reducing swelling and encouraging healing.
Other treatments may include taping, frictions, electrotherapy and PNF stretches.
Re-introduction to sport
It is only once the athlete is no longer experiencing any pain that they should be able to return to sport.
Return should be gradual, starting on a soft surface with a low intensity.
Ensure footwear is appropriate for the surface and type of training.
Generally the time frame for return to sport is 2-4 months from the date of most intense pain-to-pain free return to sport.
Everyone is different and often require an individual rehabilitation programme, if this is a recurring problem it may be time to seek help from a Sports Therapist.