Shin splints are nasty- and no soccer player wants to deal with them.
Here’s what’s going on: your shin bone (the tibia) is surrounded by a ton of muscles. Two of the deeper muscles are called your anterior tibialis and posterior tibialis. When these muscles are excessively overloaded, they tend to cause pain on your shin, which we know as shin splints.
Now what can cause you to overload the muscles of your shin? A TON of factors, one of which is a spike in training load. Let’s say you take the entire off season and do nothing but play FIFA or Fortnite. Once training camp begins, you go straight into training 4-5 days a week, with 2 matches each weekend. This is what is known as a spike in training load, as your body was used to doing absolutely nothing, and now you’re asking it to complete extremely intense tasks without preparing for them first. This is perhaps the biggest causes of shin splints, and it is why most athletes tend to get them at the beginning of their season.
Additionally, shin splints could also be more of an overuse injury. If the muscles of the lower leg are worked for a long period of time (such as a 9 month soccer season) without adequate rest, they tend to become irritated. This is why some athletes get shin splints at the end of the season.
A few more factors that can cause shin splints are new cleats and a change in playing surface. Both of these require your body to absorb forces from the ground differently. Although this sounds simple for the body to do, these forces can cause additional strain on the muscles around the shin bone. Where players tend to get into trouble is if they combine multiple factors, such as getting new cleats, playing on turf, and going back to training 5 days a week, all after taking a 2 month summer break.
So how do you manage shin splints? Well, if you think you have them, I HIGHLY suggest you reach out to a physio or athletic trainer for treatment. Their treatment will probably be a combination of the following:
- A period of relative rest, to allow the muscles to de-load and become pain free
- Strength and balance training, to allow your lower leg to become stronger and capable of taking on additional load
- Most importantly: a personalized program designed to re-load your muscles, without a large spike in your workload
Summary: Shin splints are when the muscles around your tibia feel stressed and overworked. often occur when you have a large spike in training load, and are more common in those who change cleats or playing surface. They can be treated by a rehab professional that has training in improving strength and building your load back up, while causing minimal pain.