Preseason is probably one of the worst feelings as a soccer player. In fact, if you like preseason you are crazy in love with lots of running and sore muscles. College preseason is probably the hardest a soccer player has to run in their soccer career and shin splints could introduce itself to you. High school players who play a lot of sports can be prone to this too. Note: This post contains some affiliate links for your convenience. Click here to read my full disclosure policy.
Pro compared to high school and college soccer
Pro soccer players don’t really get out of shape and their preseason is not rushed like college, so pro preseason is not too bad. In College you only have a few weeks before your first game and legally you can’t train as a team till a certain date. So for 7 days you are doing lots of 2-a-days & even 4-a-days.
High school players who play a lot (usually playing too many games or also play basketball or run track) are prone to shin splints. Shin splints can happen in just 2 or 3 days of playing multiple hours per day. Think about playing 2 games of soccer one day and then the next day having fitness for basketball or a tournament. If the player got to rest for a few days after this cool, but imagine having more practices and games.
My shin splints story
Besides a few minor times of soreness, the only time I truly ever had shin splints was when I went to Florida for the Info Sport Pro Combine. At the pro combine, you have 2 or 3 days of intense training & games in front of 20+ Pro Coaches from MLS to 2nd & 3rd Tier clubs. Right after Florida, I had a flight to Kansas City (MLS) for a trial that my college coaches Charlie Hatfield & Butch Lauffer set up for me. (thanks guys)
My first 2 days at Kansas City I had shin splints, which made it hard to do certain things but not hard enough to keep me out of a trial or game. I think the only thing that could have kept me from getting shin splints would be if I was more fit going into the combine. If I could have put myself in more 2 a day situations and more intense game play. This would have had my body a bit more ready even though anyone would have had soreness in the muscles.
What are Shin Splints
Shin splints are very sore muscles on the inside or outside of the shinbone. Some people describe them as micro-tears that make it hard to even walk sometimes. Players who are more bowlegged will get the pain on the inside of the shinbone but players who are more knock-kneed will get them on the outside of the shinbone.
Cause of Shin Splints
The most common cause is excessive activity in sports. This is especially true for the stop and go sports such as soccer, tennis, & basketball. These sports see a lot of shin splints, as do heavy runners.
At the beginning of your season, as I stated before, tight calf muscles, your foot structure – all are contributing factors to shin splints.
Shin splint pain hurts most to raise the toes up. So walking, juggling, and pretty much everything you do in soccer can irritate your legs when you have shin splints.
Try to eliminate as much activity as you can, as even walking too much will keep it from healing fast. Treatment should come in 2 stages.
RICE: Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. I know I have explained this many times but rest is best! Especially for the youth, minimizing the risks associated with lack of healing are not worth it. Talk about aversion therapy! No one wants to play in pain if this can be avoided.
Proper taping: Check out this picture below as a great example of how to properly tape (with this tape) for severe shin splints.
After you have allowed for rest & are feeling improvement in your shins is when I would introduce the second phase of recovery treatment.
Stretching: Calf stretches bi-directional. By this I mean when you truly stretch your calf by leaning forward & your foot remains flat on the ground. The other being when your heel is on the ground, your toes are raised & you lean forward toward a wall or other stable object. Ankle ‘pumps’ (where you pump your ankle as though you are pressing a gas pedal in your car slowly up & down – all motion comes from the ankle).
Massage: I ONLY recommend massage by a licensed professional who knows how to massage for blood flow, healing & recovery. Properly applied massage can speed blood flow & healing to the area, reducing pain & inflammation. The best technique includes the calf muscles, ankles & feet, the upper exterior & anterior portions of the thigh as well as the shins.
The direct, downward pressure should be done gently. The therapist should apply direct pressure with the pads of their fingertips on either side of the shin bone & press directly down. You may see YouTube videos of therapists ‘rubbing’ on both sides of the shin in an upward motion but this is not as effective as the direct downward pressure. This is not a quick massage either. Repeat this motion moving from the base of the shin toward the knee.
Outside of your lifestyle, there is not much you can do for times when you have 2-or 3-a-day preseasons or heavy trial-like opportunities. You are going to get sore and injured from time to time. I would say if we can keep our body in top form by warming up right, stretching, & training strong 6 days a week, we can be better prepared.
For times when you have tryouts or preseason you have to make sure the 20 days before the event you are working out as hard and much as you can. Three days before the event don’t work out as hard. You need to recover + at this point you had better already be fit and ready.
- Get fit & stay fit.
- Prepare yourself for events such as tryouts, running competitions, tournaments by increasing your training intensity.
- Orthotics / Insoles could help for some people who get shin splints often. I know that stores who specialize in being exclusive to runners can make excellent recommendations for the type of shoes you should wear to train in as well.
- Don’t overdo training if you don’t need to. Try to build slow if you have the time.
- Integrate massage & stretching into your common ‘best practice’ methods. Especially as you increase your training. You can also then learn how to do some of these methods for yourself.
- Surface matters. When you train, make sure you stay on soft grass or use sand courts when possible. Give your body a break! Especially in Texas in the preseason months of summer, the ground can be as hard as the concrete!
*Remember, I am not a licensed healthcare professional or a massage therapist. This is for informational purposes only & you should always see a professional for any injury!