Best of Freshman Writing
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Last updateded July 2, 2012.
PSU – Hazleton
Preventing Shin Splint Injuries
One of the most common injuries for athletes is tibial stress syndrome or most commonly known as shin splints. Shin splints refer to a pain or tenderness that occurs between the ankle and the knee. The shin bone becomes increasingly agonizing when athletes are constantly running, or jumping on it. The inflammation can occur on the inner edge or just behind the shin bone. Usually the causes are excessive stretching of the muscles along the shin bone, pronation, running on hard surfaces, and abrupt changes in training routines. How can track and field athletes perform any better if the heavy use of their muscles makes them feel worn out from training? Shin splints as a result of physical activity in running or jumping can be avoided if athletes are taught proper training techniques.
In my paper I will argue to decrease the number of shin splint injuries, athletes need to be taught proper training techniques. I will prove the importance of keeping training routines constant. An abrupt change in training is not beneficial for the muscles. Athletes should alternate between repetitive workouts, weight training, and stretching. A variety of workouts, as opposed to the same strenuous physical activity, eases stress on the muscles. Finally, athletes must be taught proper running form.
When coaches give workouts, each workout should have some purpose behind it. For example, a coach assigns six 250 meter runs with a two minute rest in between, crossing the 200 meter mark between 35-28 seconds every time. The purpose of this workout is to build on lactate threshold, which builds endurance and the ability to fight off lactic acid. Since workouts occur in sets, there might be three sets of the workout mentioned above. The repetition of the workout allows the athlete to focus on controlling his/her speed. “The value of a workout is only as good as the integrity of each individual repetition performed in that workout” (Kelso and Welscott). A repetitive workout helps improve an athlete’s endurance, running ability, and strengthens muscles.
Next, strength training is a vital part of complete conditioning to improve an athlete’s performance. Alternating between intense workouts and weight training is more beneficial for the muscles in the body. “Since both are intense, you don’t want to have too much high intensity in the same day by doing both,” claims Anthony Mucurio, assistant coach of Midwood High School. If there is too much intense activity in one day, muscles can become exhausted, which can lead to damaging them permanently. The body has over 600 different muscles whose primary functions are to contract. Muscles cause movement; therefore, the stronger the muscles, the more forceful the contractions, the faster an athlete will run, and the higher he/she will jump. Weight training also helps reduce injuries, such as shin splints. Athletes who train tend to have fewer injuries because “strength training strengthens the muscle attachments and increases density of the bones at the sights of muscle origins and insertions” (DeFranco). If an injury happens to occur, athletes will also have a better chance of healing faster. This is because their muscles are strong enough to handle the demands of increased training loads, compared to those who lack weight training; their muscles can’t cope.
In addition, athletes need to understand the importance of stretching. Dynamic stretching before workouts reduces the number of injuries. Movement prep and foam rolling are two ways to help athletes prepare their muscles for workouts. Movement prep is a series of innovative and dynamic movements that increase the athlete’s core temperature, prepares her or his nervous system for physical activity and strengthens her or his body. This style of warming up as opposed to traditional static warming up helps stabilize the tiny muscles which join joints together. Static stretching stretches the muscles out, and dynamic stretching helps the body remember the ranges of motion. Foam rollers allow the athlete to use her or his own body weight to apply pressure to sore spots. This helps decrease muscle density and allows for a better warm-up. Rolling after a workout may help to aid in recovery from strenuous exercise as well.
Finally, proper running form is one of the hardest habits to achieve. Usually runners tend to run with a slouchy posture, heel striking or forefoot running, over-striding and bending from the waist. If a runner lands on her or his toes, calves will tighten quickly and shin pain can develop. Landing on the heels demonstrates over-striding and causes the runner to brake, which wastes energy and may cause shin splints. “Whether you’re a sprinter or a distance runner running form isn’t any different; sprinters form is just more pronounced” (Mucurio). Good running form would be a tall body alignment, mid-foot strike, high cadence, and a forward lean. This means that the arms and shoulders are relaxed, arms swinging at a 90-degree angle; the runner leans from the ankles without bending at the waist, keeping the weight slightly forward and flexed at the ankles and making short quick strides and lightly hitting mid-foot. Athletes in general should train on softer surfaces, such as a rubberized track as opposed to a gym floor, which helps reduce shin splints as well.
However, some argue that barefoot running improves techniques and running health. “By landing on the middle or front of the foot, barefoot runners have almost no impact collision,” argues Lieberman, PhD, professor of human evolutionary biology at Harvard University. While running shoes may increase the risk of injuries, there is little research to back up these claims and even less research that states barefoot running is easier on your body than running shoes. Running shoes or no running shoes, athletes will benefit from being taught the proper way to run. “The repetitive pounding on the ground without protection is ridiculous … runners may accidentally step on objects like nails and glass” (Wolff). Prevention of shin splints start with wearing comfortable running shoes.
Others also argue that shin splints could be prevented by realigning the foot, which corrects pronation. Doctors realign the structure of a foot by relieving symptoms that cause tenderness and inflammation. After x-rays a doctor can further correct any abnormal alignment. This process stabilizes the foot and prevents leg muscles from performing this function; therefore, muscles don’t become overused. While this may permanently remove shin splints, there are still some risks to consider. Runners can experience increased pain and/or infection during recovery and risk damaging nerves, leading to more pain. Why risk the pain during recovery and waste valuable opportunities to improve training? The time spent using braces, canes, or walking aids can be time well spent on perfecting form to prevent shin splints.
Given these points how can athletes succeed in beating their personal record if they are constantly becoming injured? First, they must do repetitive workouts that have a purpose. The repetition trains the muscles to fulfill a certain task. Second, athletes should alternate between weight training and repetition in workouts. Doing too much intense activity is not good for the muscles and leads to injury. Third, before and after workouts it is wise to do dynamic stretching to prepare the body for movement. Being taught proper running form is the primary key to the prevention of shin splints. In essence, the primary factor to correcting injuries, such as shin splints, is to teach athletes proper running form, stretches, and workouts that will benefit them in their desired events.
“Beginners Guide to Movement Prep.” Core Performance. Athletes’ Performance Inc, 2011. Web. 16 November 2011.
Boyle, Michael. “Ready to Roll.” Training and Conditioning Magazine. 8 March 2007. Web. 16 November 2011.
Defranco, Joe. Why Is Strength Training So Important For Athletes? Defranco’s Training Systems. N.D. Web. 16 November 2011.
Hendrick, Bill, and Daniel Lieberman. “Barefoot Running Laced With Health Benefits.” WebMD Health News. 27 January 2010. Web. 16 November 2011.
Kelso, Tom, and Wayne L. Wescott. The Importance of Repetition. N.D. Web. 16 November 2011.
Murcurio, Anthony. Personal Interview. 12 November 2011.
Wolff, Irsley, M.D. “Barefoot Running Pros and Cons.” Runaddicts.net. 1 July 2010. Web. 16 November 2017.
Shatisha Diggs's essay appears here with her express written permission and cannot be reproduced in any manner or fashion without her express written permission.