Shin splints can sideline everyone from weekend warriors to elite decathletes. Developed during any vigorous sports activity, they are particularly associated with running. For athletes who try to “run through the pain,” shin splints can progress to serious injury.
St. Ambrose University decathlete Cole Connell developed debilitating shin splints as he trained for his elite sport. Dr. Andrew Bries, ORA Orthopedics’ Sports Medicine Center of Excellence, helped get Cole back on track.
What are Shin Splints?
The term ‘shin splints,’ or ‘medial tibial stress syndrome,’ refers to sharp or throbbing pain that runs along the inside of the shinbone, or tibia.
It’s the result of an inflammation of tissues around your tibia. It can produce mild swelling, and often occurs during and after exercise. Your shinbones can be sore to the touch.
Runners are at high risk for shin splints. Since decathletes participate in 10 field and track events, it was no surprise that Cole would develop the condition. The question was, was his injury progressing to a stress fracture? Could he keep training?
Treating Shin Splints
For most people – both weekday and weekend warriors – simple measures such as rest, stretching and ice can help relieve the pain.
Cross-training and not overdoing any single routine can help keep shin splints from returning.
But what about an elite athlete like Cole, whose success as a decathlete depends upon rigorous and repetitive training?
Dr. Bries says treatment requires a balanced approach.
“We discovered Cole was getting a precursor to a stress fracture,” Dr. Bries says.
“He could have broken his tibia which could have ended his career. The question was, How do we allow him to train to stay at that elite level but not over train to the extent of developing a devastating injury?”
Dr. Bries says treatment would have to not only heal the bone, but keep symptoms at bay during activity.
“We did a multiplicity of things,” he says. “We modified his training regimen, looked at his technique, did strengthening and got him into the pool.”
To continue training, Cole was able to run on an underwater treadmill at ORA Orthopedics’ new 30,000 square foot clinic in northwest Davenport. With physical therapy powered by Rock Valley Physical Therapy immediately adjacent to the physician offices, the ORA clinic provides a one-stop, full-service patient experience.
“Cole was able to continue running without impact,” Dr. Bries says. “He benefited from a treatment team approach, with a therapist and physician supervising his treatment.”
Evaluating, Treating Sports Injuries
Using a team approach to evaluating and treating sports injuries benefits the patient, no matter what the sport.
Dr. Bries says he can better supervise Cole’s training regimen because ORA’s state-of-the-art physical therapy center, which is powered by Rock Valley Physical Therapy, directly connects to the physician clinic.
“I’m literally steps away from the therapists,” Dr. Bries says. “Oftentimes I’ll ask a therapist to help evaluate a patient with me, or I’ll step over to see how treatment is going. It keeps everyone on the same page, and high patient satisfaction scores reflect that.”