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Strains, Sprains, and Shin Splints

Strains, Sprains, and Shin Splints

What are some common exercise injuries?
What do I do if I'm injured?
How can I prevent an injury?

When you listen to your body, it tells you many things. Body signals let you know when you're hungry, cold, or tired. But sometimes your body tries to tell you things you don't want to hear. Have you been ignoring a dull pain in your shoulder when you carry your backpack? Or do you push through that sharp pain in your legs when you run? Those aches and pains are your body's way of letting you know you're injured, so listen up! Don't ignore what your body is saying. Even if you have a minor injury, it's important that you know how to spot it and treat it so that it doesn't get worse. back to top

What are some common exercise injuries?
The more you exercise, the better you will know your body and be able to recognize when something isn't quite right. You'll be able to tell the "I'm tired" muscle soreness from the "Oh, no, there's something wrong here" pain. Here are some common exercise injuries and how to recognize them.
  • Strain:
    A strain happens when you over-stretch or tear a tendon (the tough end of a muscle that attaches to a bone) by pushing yourself too hard.
    Symptoms: stiffness, weakness, tenderness, and swelling
    Common strains: the hamstrings and inner thigh muscles, lower back, and shoulders
  • Sprain:
    A sprain happens when you tear or over-stretch a ligament (the fibers that connect two bones) by moving it past the point where it should be.
    Symptoms: swelling, bruising, and tenderness
    Common sprains: The ankle is the most common place for sprains, but you can also sprain your knees, fingers, and wrist.
  • Shin splint:
    A shin splint is a separation between your shin muscle and your shin bone. The most common cause of shin splints is starting out too hard and too fast after not exercising for awhile. But, you can also get shin splints when you first run on a different surface than you're used to (like concrete when you usually run on a track), or if you wear shoes that don't fit right or don't provide enough support and cushioning.
    Symptoms: dull or sharp pain along your shin and tenderness
    back to top
What do I do if I'm injured?
If you think you're injured, stop whatever you're doing! Tell a coach or an adult you trust about it, and don't try to be brave by ignoring your body's signals. Instead of working with pain, think R.I.C.E., which is an easy way to remember rest, ice, compression, and elevation.

R = rest. Stop exercising for at least 48 hours.
I = ice. Put ice on the injured area for 20 to 30 minutes. Be sure to place a towel between your skin and the ice so you don't get frostbite. (It happens!) Savvy girls keep a bag of frozen peas in the freezer for these little emergencies. Frozen peas are cheaper than ice packs and the bag molds to the shape of the joint. And frozen peas come in different size bags so you can always get the perfect one for each joint. Just pop the bag back in the freezer when you’re done and let it re-freeze for the next time you need an ice pack. Of course, you may want to mark that bag of peas with a big X so nobody eats them by accident!
C = compression. Wrap a towel or an ACE bandage around the area. Be careful not to wrap the area too tightly. Your goal is to support the joint, not cut off the blood flow.
E = elevation. Rest your injured limb and raise it so it is level with your heart or higher.

If your injury is still painful or swollen after three days of treating it yourself, you should see your health professional. Of course, if you think your injury might be more severe than a sprain, you should contact your health professional right away. back to top

How can I prevent an injury?
Of course, no one likes being injured and out of the action. That's why it's important to know how to prevent injuries in the first place! Here are some tips that can help keep you injury-free. back to top

  • Wear supportive shoes that fit and aren't worn out.
  • Always warm up and stretch before you exercise.
  • Watch where you're going so that you don't trip or slip on uneven pavement or the water someone spilled on the gym floor.
  • Know your limitations so you don't push yourself too hard. back to top
Last Modified Date: 3/22/2001
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