The Human Side of Shin Splints by John
This month’s article will be blissfully short. Those of you who’ve been in the store recently have seen me in a cast to the elbow on my left hand – a result of some minor surgery on my left index finger. So, I’m typing one-handed, which, for an accomplished typist is sheer frustration!
A new high school Spring sports season is upon us – notably Spring track, but also baseball, crew, lacrosse, soccer, and tennis. Track, obviously, requires conditioning running – but most coaches and trainers for the other sports incorporate some degree of running into their training and conditioning programs. (As the track and field athletes are fond of saying, “My sport is your sport’s punishment!”)
What that means to us at MRW is that we’re beginning to see a fresh wave of high school athletes coming in to the store with shin splints. I leave it to Helen and Richard to discuss the physiological aspects of, and treatment for, shin splints in their articles this month, and use my column to get on my soapbox for a brief moment to plant a seed from a different perspective – that of a parent of high school athletes.
Both of my kids have suffered from shin splints, and several times a week we see kids in the store with them. Fortunately, most of us live through them. But they can be debilitating in the short term and sometimes cause permanent damage – both cause for concern.
When I was growing up in the ‘50’s and ‘60’s, there was a huge emphasis on “playing hurt.” We were expected to “drive on” even when it was obvious that something was wrong. I believe today’s parents, coaches, and trainers are a bit more enlightened than they were 50 years ago, but unfortunately I still see signs of a focus on the win/loss “stats” – at the expense of athletes’ health. I don’t see this as a huge issue, but if even one budding athlete is injured unnecessarily or turned off to athletics because of an overzealous parent or coach, it’s one too many.
So please pay attention to your young athletes. Continuing to press on in the face of excessive pain, whether out of pride, fear of ridicule, or apprehension over not making (or being cut from) the team is a terrible thing for a young athlete to endure – and totally unnecessary.
Watch your kids. Talk with them. Listen to them. Especially if they seem to be in excessive pain, but also if they’re suffering lingering discomfort, do something about it. Work with them, their coach, their trainer, your family doctor if necessary. Intervene – and with the right support, they’ll be back in the game, as healthy as before. As bad as a running injury is, I’d hate to think of even one young athlete being forever turned off to the joys of a run on a beautiful Spring day because of injury.