What are shin splints?
An increasing number of boys and girls are playing recreational and organized sports. As a result, there is a rise in the number of overuse injuries seen among children and adolescents. The majority of sports and overuse injuries are due to minor trauma involving soft tissue injuries--injuries that affect the bone, muscles, ligaments, and/or tendons.
One such injury is shin splints. The injury is marked by pain and tenderness over the shin area. It may be caused by excessive running, running on hard surfaces (concrete) and improper shoe wear.
Overuse injuries can also lead to stress fractures. Stress fractures are weak spots or small cracks in the bone caused by continuous overuse. Stress fractures often occur in the foot after training for basketball, running, and other sports. There usually is no swelling, but pain and tenderness often increase during movement.
Treatment of an overuse injury
Specific treatment for an overuse injury will be determined by your child's doctor based on:
Your child's age, overall health, and medical history
Extent of the condition
Type of condition
Your child's tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
Expectations for the course of the condition
Your opinion or preference
The goal of treatment is to control the pain, promote healing, prevent complications, and restore normal use of the injured area.
Initial treatment for overuse injuries includes R.I.C.E. (rest, ice, compression, and elevation).
Be sure to consult your child's doctor if there is a prolonged, visible deformity of the affected area, or if severe pain prevents use of the arm, leg, wrist, ankle, or knee.
Other treatment options may include:
Splint or cast
Crutches or wheelchair
Physical therapy (to stretch and strengthen the injured muscles, ligaments, and tendons)
Surgery (especially if the injury is reoccurring, there is persistent pain, or if a muscle, tendon, or ligament is badly torn)
Long-term outlook for children with overuse injuries
Overuse injuries heal quite quickly in children. It is important that the child adhere to the activity restrictions and/or stretching and strengthening rehabilitation programs to prevent reinjury.
Most sports injuries are due to either traumatic injury or overuse of muscles or joints. Many sports injuries can be prevented with proper conditioning and training, wearing appropriate protective gear, and using proper equipment.