Monthly Archives: August 2012

Dealing with Shin Splints

Shin splints is a common term for an irritation of the tibia bone on the medial side of the lower leg. The medical term for this is medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS). It is commonly seen in athletes, dancers and military personnel who have a higher incidence of running and jumping activities. Running and jumping activity place increase stress on the muscles, tendons and periosteum (lining of the bones) of the lower leg. MTSS can share symptoms with another more serious condition called anterior compartment syndrome. This is where the fascia, which encapsulates and separates muscles, swells. This causes increased pressure that presses on vascular structures and limits blood flow to the lower leg causing intense pain, weakness and color changes in the leg.

MTSS is usually diagnosed through a detailed physical evaluation and subjective medical history.  Tenderness to palpate the bone and muscle of the front of the leg is usually found to directly follow, or be present during, a specific physical activity. Imaging studies such as CT scans or MRI’s will be utilized to rule out stress fractures of the bone or show edema within the periosteum. Edema is sometimes found as the muscles and tendons that attach to the bone stress the periosteum. This can be caused by muscle imbalances of the lower leg or repetitive downward pressure of pointing the toes during activity. Decreased arch support with improper footwear can also lead to increased stress on the muscles that control the ankle leading to pain and swelling in the anterior lower leg.

The best treatment for shin splints is an immediate period of rest, ice and the initiation of non-steroidal anti inflammatory medication. After the pain has completely resolved, a rehabilitation program to build up strength in the lower legs should be utilized along with wearing appropriate footwear with good arch support. Orthotics may be utilized to increase arch support if deemed necessary by your physical therapist or MD. Low level aerobic activity should be introduced and completed without pain before return to any vigorous activity or sport. For those that are returning to running or pounding activities, you should try to avoid harsh or rough terrain. Possibly running on a softer track may be a better option before running on hard pavement. Finally, appropriate rest time intervals between activities will be important to a full return without pain.

Dynamic Warm-Ups or Static Stretching? (Part 2 of 2)

Stretching is an overlooked but necessary component to any strength and conditioning program or fitness program. It does take a little more time but the benefits will be clear. Stretching not only improves flexibility but will help prevent injuries. There are two completely different ways to get the body prepared for activity: Dynamic warm-ups and static stretching.

The objective is to raise your core body temperature, actively elongate your muscles, excite your nervous system and rehearse (or walk through) techniques that will help you in your activity or sport.

Many people will confuse dynamic stretching with ballistic stretching (bouncing during a stretch). Dynamic stretching consists of controlled movements that take you to the limits of your range of motion vs. bouncing (forcing parts of the body) beyond the limits.

Avoid substituting static stretching for dynamic stretching. Static stretching, where there is  lengthening of a muscle(s) as far as possible (holding for 20-30 seconds) will actually decrease force production of a muscle. However, it can be effective, and does have a place in your program just not in pre-game. [1] The key is being aware of knowing when to perform a static stretch for increased range of motion. A coach or trainer can help you design your program incorporate components effectively.

Here is a simple dynamic warm-up that you can perform anywhere:

  • Jumping Jacks — 20 reps
  • Bodyweight Squat — 10 reps
  • High Knee Pulls — 5 reps each leg
  • Single-Leg Squat — 5 reps each leg
  • Lunges — 5 reps each side
  • Single-Leg Toe Touch — 5 reps each leg
  • Side Lunges — 5 reps each side
  • Push-Up-to-T — 5 reps each side
  • Supermans — 10 reps

Refresh and breakdown:

  • What is the reason for dynamic warm-up?  In addition to increasing blood flow, body temperature and stimulating the nervous system, they should be a stepping stone tomore intense activity that lies ahead.
  • What movements are associated with a dynamic warm-up?  Incorporates a series of hops, skips, bounds and dynamic stretching for preparation of intense activity.
  • When should an athlete perform a dynamic warm-up?  Prior to competition or training for 10-20 minutes. You should break a sweat!
  • What is the purpose of static stretching? Simply to improve flexibility of the muscles being stretched. If the muscle begins to quiver, back off of the stretch a little.
  • When should an athlete/ individual perform static stretches?  Static stretches should mainly be performed at the end of workouts. You will see a      tremendous difference with just 10-15 minutes.

Remember to always consult a physician and trainer when starting a new workout program or physical activity.

By: Rocco Ferraiolo PTA, NASM certified, SPARQ certified


[1] Adding one or two static stretches prior to activity can be performed if there is tightness in an area.

Improving Through a Progressive Dynamic Warm-Up Mobility (Part 1 of 2)

One of the most important components of training is making the transition from normal daily activities to a training session. It should be done before each training session, and it should have specific goals. Those being raising your core temperature, elevate your heart rate and taking your joints through a full range of motion.

One of the best ways to achieve these goals is with a dynamic mobility warm-up. The transition into workout mode is made with the progression from simple to complex movements and from low-intensity to high-intensity movements. Movements at the beginning of the warm-up are slow and controlled. As you progress through the warm-up they transition to faster more complex movements to stimulate the neuromuscular system.

Before starting any activity, jog 400yds.

Ground Series

Walking Series

Skipping Series

A dynamic warm-up should last anywhere from 10 -20 minutes and you should break a light sweat and slightly be out of breath. The tempo and energy that you generate will not only prepare your body, it will set the tone for the rest of your workout.

Remember before participating in any physical activity or workout program, consult your physician and a certified trainer.

By: Rocco Ferraiolo PTA, NASM certified, SPARQ certified

What Constitutes a Banned Substance in Sports?

The Olympics are here and there are already headlines involving banned substances being used by athletes.  The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is responsible for fighting drug taking in sport and regulates an international banned substances list.  The substances on this list can be classified into a few categories for easy understanding of what drugs can be used for performance enhancement.

Body Modification:

  1. Stimulants that boost bodily functions such as heart rate or brain activity.  Examples would be cocaine or adarfinill.
  2. Anabolic Steroids stimulate muscle growth which improves strength and recovery time.
  3. Narcotics that kill pain allow athletes to train or compete longer.
  4. Peptide Hormones such as insulin or human growth hormone which increase the body’s ability to function and recover.
  5. Beta 2 Agonists which are typically found in Asthma drugs allow more oxygen to reach the blood.
  6. Diuretics that increase urine production are used to flush the system of traces of performance enhancing drugs.  Therefore they are also prohibited.

Blood Doping:

Not to be confused with “doping” in general, this is the process of manipulating the concentration of red blood cells in the system.  Red blood cells are responsible for carrying oxygen to the muscles and help to improve endurance.  Blood doping is performed in 2 ways.

  1. Erythropoietin is a drug that stimulates bone marrow to produce more red blood cells.
  2. Blood transfusion is the process of injecting previously harvested blood cells into the system before competition.

Testing procedures are becoming more sophisticated and specific as technology improves, but drug investigators admit they are still behind the curve in testing for “undetectable” substances in use.

Some Refreshing Facts About Sports Drinks

When it comes to pre-workout supplements, recovery drinks and sports beverages, the information for the athlete or fitness enthusiast can be overwhelming and confusing. The complicated ingredient labels do not help you decide which is best for you.

Your performance during a workout or competition puts great stress on the cardiovascular system, body temperature and electrolyte levels. Since performance depends on all three components it is important to hydrate consistently before, during and after the event/activity.

It is recommended that during strenuous training or competition of approximately an hour and thirty-minutes or more, a sports drink should be used to deliver a high concentration of chemicals (electrolytes) needed to perform. Sports drinks do have electrolytes that will regulate plasma blood volume and replace lost sodium. In most cases the sugar content is a little high but that will give you quick energy. Because water does not have a taste, it is often not as appealing as a sports drink and gets ignored when needed the most.

So which sports drinks are the best? Many have too much sugar, food dyes and artificial flavoring. Some all-natural drinks include:

  1. G2 Natural Series
  2. Gleukos All Natural Fuel
  3. Homemade Drink

According to The Gatorade Sports Science Institute, properly formulated sports drinks can:

  1. Encourage voluntary fluid intake
  2. Stimulate fast absorption
  3. Promote rapid and complete rehydration
  4. Improve performance

Remember that sports drinks are meant for intense workouts and activities, not everyday consumption (water would be a better choice for daily consumption).

NOTE: Sports drinks are different from energy drinks.

By: Rocco Ferraiolo PTA, NASM certified, SPARQ certified