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Shin Splints in Children

  • Overview

    If your teen or child has been diagnosed with shin splints, we at Children’s Hospital Boston know that he’s experiencing discomfort, as well as some disappointment that his sports training has been disrupted. We’ll approach your child’s treatment with sensitivity and support—to get him back into sports safely.

    About shin splints

    With more and more kids playing organized sports, there’s been a rise in the number of overuse injuries among children and adolescents. As a common overuse injury, shin splints occur largely among runners—but sometimes among aerobics participants and athletes whose sports involve quick cutting and sideways motions. At Children’s, our patients with shin splints are usually teenagers or post-adolescents, since this is the age group that’s most likely to run and train competitively.

    • Shin splints and other overuse injuries are sports-related microtraumas (small injuries) that result from repetitively using the same parts of the body.
    • “Shin splints” is a catch-all term for tenderness and pain in the area of the shin bone (tibia). Pain can be:
      • along or behind the inside edge of the tibia (posteromedial)
      • along the tibia in the front/outside of the lower leg (anterolateral)
    • Repetitive training can inflame the muscles, tendons and periosteum (the thin layer of tissue that covers a bone) associated with the tibia, as well as the tibia itself.
    • Shin splints can occur with overtraining or with an intense start of training without prior conditioning.
    • The risk of shin splints increases if a runner:
      • has flat feet
      • tends to pronate (turn feet outward) when running
    • Signs and symptoms (pain and inflammation) of shin splints can resemble those of stress fractures—so a proper diagnosis is important.
    • Shin splints can often be prevented with:
    • proper conditioning and training (especially cross-training)
    • sport-appropriate protective gear
    • sport-appropriate equipment
    • adequate rest between exercise sessions
       

    Boston Children’s Hospital approach to shin splints and overuse injuries

    You can have peace of mind knowing that the team in Orthopedic Center has treated thousands of children, adolescents, adults and professional athletes with injuries ranging from the minor to the highly complex. We can provide your child with expert diagnosis, treatment and care—as well as the benefits of some of the most advanced clinical and scientific research in the world.

    The Orthopedic Center at Boston Children’s has provided care to thousands of young athletes and is the health care choice of professional athletes and world-renowned dancers. We are the official orthopedic caregivers for the internationally famous Boston Marathon and the renowned Boston Ballet.

    Children’s orthopedic team provides comprehensive assessment, treatment and follow-up care to children, adolescents and young adults who have sports-related orthopedic injuries. Our skilled orthopedists and sports medicine experts work with physical therapy staff to develop long-term treatment and activity plans. Our team has also developed innovative evaluation programs and effective injury prevention programs and strategies.

    Our orthopedic team includes 24 orthopedic surgeons, 10 primary care sports medicine specialists, two podiatrists, a nutritionist, a sports psychologist, eight physician assistants, 14 nurses and four certified athletic trainers. In addition to our busy practice in Boston, Children's physicians see hundreds of patients every week at our locations in Lexington, Weymouth, Peabody and Waltham. Our surgeons perform an average of 5,000 procedures each year.

    Shin splints: Reviewed by Yi-Meng Yen, MD, PhD
    © Children’s Hospital Boston, 2011

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