Shin Splints From A Hard Landing Playing Basketball

by Steven

My "Shin Splints" appeared almost 4 years ago as a result of a single incident. I was playing basketball, with a 5 foot brick wall behind the goal. The ball went up behind the wall, so I went to get it. When I returned I jumped off the wall with the ball and attempted to dunk.

I missed the goal and landed hard on my feet on the concrete, not bracing myself for impact at all- my legs were totally rigid. The impact hurt quite a lot in my shins.

I took about 2 weeks off until the pain subsided, and I began to casually play ultimate frisbee and tennis again- about twice a week.

Soon after I began to experience pain in my lower inner shins.

Based on information from friends who ran cross country, I was told that this was consistent with "shin splints" and that I should take some time off sports.

I took about 2 or 3 months off, and then resumed casually playing sports again.

Once again, after about 3 weeks of playing sports 2-3 times a week, I began to experience shin pain again. It got worse and worse, and eventually it hurt even while I was not walking or running.

At this point I went to the Sports Medicine department at my university (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill). They took an x-ray which found no problems, and sent me to physical therapy.

The physical therapist had me do a number of strengthening exercises for about 2 months. These included calf raises and a number of stretches.

After these 2 months of strengthening and no playing sports, I went out and tried playing tennis again. Once again, after 2-3 weeks the pain came back.

In the past 2 years, I've been in cycles of playing sports (soccer, basketball, tennis) once a week until the pain comes back (maybe a month into it), then taking 2 months off to heal.

Have you ever treated a case that came about from a single shock like this? I'm simply not convinced that normal treatment is working. Any help will be very much appreciated!



Joshua Answers:

Hi Steven.

It's say it's a sure thing that normal treatments aren't working. Obviously they're not.

And they usually don't, depending on what one has going on.

So you technically do have shin splints, which is wear and tear injury of the connective tissue connections of the thick shin muscle sitting closely against the connetive tissue that covers the bone, and includes in the dynamic the sheath of connective tissue wrapping the anterior compartment.

For a runner, it's the continued wear and tear of conective tissue and tightening muscles that
leads to pain.

You had that dynamic going on, but you had a sudden impact. Not like getting hit with a bat, but more like a shearing vertical motion, like tectonic plates during an earthquake.

Muscles FIRED to support the hard landing, they contracted and pulled on their connections, and it stretched and overstretched muscle, connective tissue, and potentially gave you not a big rip or tear, but LOTS of little tiny rips and tears.

It's just as much as injury as anything else, it just looks different.

So you are young, your body is trying to heal this Tendonitis but it's losing to the constant force of the Pain Causing Dynamic.

It's predictable that you could take a year off, then get back to sports, and within a certain short amount of time, the pain would be right back.

Thats just how it works. Sometimes people can get away with rest and resuming activity, but I only see the folks it doesn't work that way for, so I'm a bit biased:)


1. Learn How To Reduce Inflammation

Ice and ice massage a lot for a couple weeks. Start light, then start digging in more and more. You're essentially trying to make the dry crunchy sponge of the tissue into soft, squishy sponge.

2. Slowly start to do that position where you sit on your forlegs, like having japanese tea. I should know the name for that.....

Don't force it, work your way into it over time. Watch tv like that.

3. Regularly just pound on your shins, with fist, forearm, or other solid object. Don't hurt yourself, you're just using the impact to squeeze the sponge, get circulation in and out, and make the tissue mobile. Do this frequently and regularly throughout the day.

If you have the motivation, do that INTENSIVELY and committedly for the next two weeks.

Then you will ease back into sports, and continue to do it to support your body back up the Upward Spiral.

More questions, more answers.

Please reply using the comment link below. Do not submit a new submission to answer/reply, it's too hard for me to find where it's supposed to go.

And, comments have a 3,000 character limit so you may have to comment twice.

Joshua Tucker, B.A., C.M.T.
The Tendonitis Expert

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Nov 21, 2009
PART 2 - thanks! - Shin Splints From A Hard Landing Playing Basketball
by: Steven

Thanks so much Joshua, I'm going to start ice dipping and massage today. Regarding the part about pounding on my shins- should this be done on the inside where the pain is? Also, should I start doing this right away along with the icing?



Joshua Comments:

On the inside where the pain is, and all over. The whole structure is one big sponge, and the whole area works together. Give it all a whack.

I would throw some 'pounding' in often throughout the day. Ideally you'll do it for about 10-30 seconds every 30 minutes throughout the day. Chances are you'll forget and won't do it that often, but it's a great goal.

Repeated stimulus to the area regularly through the day gives you a CUMULATIVE effect.

You can start it now. I wouldn't do it -right- after an icing, but you're not going to hurt yourself with it (Don't go hitting it as hard as you can with a bat, and your're not going to do hit it for 8 hours straight, right?) so the more the merrier.

Do that for a couple weeks, then get back to me/update me.

Jan 08, 2010
PART 3 - Next step? - Shin Splints From A Hard Landing Playing Basketball
by: Steven Howell


It took me a while to get in a situation where I had time to do this with commitment, but I finally did, and have been doing everything you said for about 3 weeks solid now.

I haven't done any physical activity that would hurt my shins during these 3 weeks.

How do I go about getting back into physical activity?

Are there certain parts of the treatment that I should keep doing?


Joshua Comments:

Hi Steven.

Assuming that your pain is gone, and you've been doing the self care all along, the way to get back into activity is to start out VERY SLOW.

You start out slow so you can keep an eye out for what is going on. Can you go 5 minutes? 10? 30?

I would allow for and expect some irritation. If not, great. But if you do have some pain, then continue the self care while you slowly build up.

It's really all about avoiding irritation.

Realistically, unless the pain is gone (and it certainly can be), you will be doing the self care to counter any inflammation/irritation, and to continue to support your body in an Upward Spiral.

If that doesn't answer your question, let me know.

Jul 19, 2018
Similar situation
by: Stanc

I’m 65 and had a blow to shin about 7 months ago. I got better except for a couple of small spots on shin that had a burning sensation often but not constantly. I found this website and began the massages and ice. They do seem to help but I did notice the area I rub begin to show some bruising.

I wonder if this means the trapped bruise on the periosteum is now being released? I could feel it on surface of shin. It seems much smaller now. The burning sensation has stopped. A good thing I hope. This is a great website. Thanks.


Joshua Comments:

Hi Stanc.

Read this page. It probably doesn't apply to your scenario, but you could have a couple little new bones there in the flesh. (I'm not sure if you're mainly talking shin bone, or the meat of the shins, or both. This page talks about 'the meat').

Myositis Ossificans

Then read this page. Bone Bruise. It's probably most relevant to your scenario.

If you got a bone bruise, then that can take a long time to go away, massage and icing will speed it up.

If you have flesh bruising, that's probably not from the periosteum bruising (doesn't really work like that).

Either you're rubbing too hard and causing bruising, or have a wee bit of iron insufficiency (easy bruising).

That wasn't the best reply in the world. Read the two linked pages, my reply, and then come back with any questions or clarifications.

Aug 02, 2018
Shin pain
by: Stan C

Hi Joshua thanks for the response. I wrote to you originally on this chain on 7/19. Since my comment I had a MRI done. It showed everything okay including the spot I mentioned on shin bone. The mri did not even show that. I still feel it periodically especially today.

I mowed yard yesterday with a push mower and covered a total of 2.2 miles according to the tracker I used. The pain did return. And I feel the tiny raised spot again. I wonder if this is something I just have to tolerate in future as my internist said the MRI is quite definitive.

I also wonder if I should begin again the massage and ice as it appeared to help before. Thanks


Joshua Comments:

Massage absolutley, ice probably. As a very general statement, tightness is the problem (which the MRI definitively will not show). As long as tightness is the problem, you'll experience symptoms recurring.

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