Shin Splints in Winter

Experts say pain in front of legs should be taken seriously

SATURDAY, Jan. 3, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- In the rush to jump into ice hockey, skiing, ski boarding or other cold weather activities, winter athletes sometimes forget conditioning is important year-round.

No matter the season, whenever the tendons, muscles or bones in the lower leg are stressed, strained or not properly conditioned, shin splints are a common result.

The term is a non-medical term that's most often used by athletes to describe pain in the front of their lower leg, about midway between the knee and ankle.

Whatever the pain is called, it's usually a tendon -- one of the tough, dense, cordlike bands of tissue that connect bones to muscles -- that's responsible for the discomfort. Most often athletes say they have "shin splints" when the tendon that passes up and through the lower leg directly behind the shin bone gets inflamed, a condition doctors call tendonitis.

In addition to stress and strain on the leg during a sporting event or practice, tendonitis in this area of the body can be caused by the way an athlete's foot strikes the ground, poor conditioning or a strength imbalance between two muscle groups in the leg that normally work together.

What's a hockey player to do when knocked off the ice by aching shins?

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons recommends taking a break from the activity that caused the tendonitis. Often, this is all that's required. The academy also suggests applying heat before the activity and ice after the activity as a way of preventing the pain from recurring. Aspirin and ibuprofen can help with symptoms, too.

When the shin splints are the result from a muscle imbalance, it's often useful to strengthen the weaker muscle to correct the imbalance as well.

More information

Get more information about shin splints from the American Running Association.

SOURCE: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
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