Disclaimer: I am NOT a doctor. I do NOT have a medical degree. I would URGE you consult a medical professional if you currently have shin splints. This article is only intended to give advice on how to prevent shin splints from occurring.
What if I am to tell you how to STOP shin splints – one of THE most painful injuries in sports stemming from overuse?
Would you listen?
I think so!
I have experience fighting shin splints. I can help you not repeat the same mistakes I made.
The first thing to remember is that shin splints are defined as micro tears in the shin muscles around the tibia bones that occur due to overuse.
It often happens when there is TOO MUCH stress on the tibia bone to keep the lower leg muscles, tendons, and bones aligned when running.
These tears HURT every time you run or even walk. They WILL cause a more severe injury if you try to push through the pain.
But on the basketball court, shin splints can really hurt YOUR game!
Shin splints HURTS your overall basketball game!
With shin splints, it is MUCH harder to score AND to play defense!
The shin muscle is needed to support your ankle and knee muscles whenever you rapidly change direction in order to cut or dribble to the basket, come off screens, or play the defense needed to cut off your man’s dribbles or cuts to the basket.
If the shin muscles are literally tearing apart, then how can still you do all this as well as you usually do?
Like most overuse injuries, the key to healing shin splints is to let them heal. You have to rest and let your body naturally heal the micro tears.
That’s tough! It is better to never have them in the first place!
How do you prevent shin splints from happening?
Here are four tips to keep the shin muscles as healthy as possible.
Tip #1: Massage and Stretch the Tibialis Anterior Muscle
If stretching and massaging the other leg muscles are a must before training, then why not stretch the shin muscle as well?
Massaging then stretching the shin muscle will not only maintain the leg and foot’s natural gait while running – but WILL also put LESS pressure on the connecting ankle and knee muscles!
If you have a foam roller, I would highly recommend you do this.
If possible, I urge you do this BEFORE and AFTER you play basketball! The foam roller is crucial to not only preventing shin splints but also loosening up your other leg muscles.
If you do NOT have a foam roller, you can still do these three things:
- Massage the shin muscle (which will loosen up the muscle prior to stretching it)
- Hold your foot downward (so the shin muscle can be stretched)
- Flex your foot back and forth (to stretch and strengthen the shin muscle)
ALWAYS do these three exercises as part of your warmup routine!
But there are also other leg muscles to train to support the shin muscle…
Tip #2: Strengthen the Calf Muscles
Calf muscles are not good just for your vertical in basketball!
Strong calf muscles can absorb a greater share of the impact your legs incur while running and jumping on the basketball court, which puts less pressure on the shin muscles to support the hamstrings and Achilles tendons.
In short, a strong and flexible calf muscle will act as a counterbalance to the shin muscle!
Here is a video showing six ways to strengthen your calf muscles – and none of them require weights or even stair steps!
Tip #3: SLOWLY Build up your Basketball Conditioning
Going from inactivity to full-speed training is ALWAYS going to put you at risk of injury.
Putting sudden pressure is going to put undue pressure on the ankle muscles and tendons, which will in turn force the shin muscles to have to overcompensate in order to stabilize the lower leg.
That will most likely result in shin splints!
The shin muscle was NOT meant to be the sole stabilizing force for both the knee and ankle muscles.
The muscles will gradually tear if they are overstressed! If possible, do NOT go from zero to full speed whenever you step on the basketball court!
You wouldn’t max out the squat rack or the bench press immediately after injury!
So why do the same to your shin muscles on the basketball court?
Instead, do this to build up your shin muscles – if you distance run as part of your training regimen:
- For a week, run half as long as you normally do (if you normally run 4 miles, run 2 miles at the same pace)
- Then go to 75% of normal (go 2 miles to 3 miles at the same pace)
- After two weeks, go back to normal
And if possible, do this while running…
Tip #4: Run on Grass (if possible)
Sprinting on pavement, running track surfaces, or even on basketball courts WILL put a tremendous amount of pressure on the shin muscles.
Sprint on the grass instead! The grass surface will be MUCH more forgiving to your knees, ankles, and shins.
An ounce of prevention is worth two pounds of cure when it comes to shin splints.
These four tips WILL mitigate the risk of shin splints!
One more thing: just STOP when your body TELLS you it is time to stop.