Today’s blog comes from a conversation I had with a client this week.  He mentioned how his teenage son sustained an injury to his lower leg this past week.  He plays soccer and took a hard hit from a ball right to his shin….

Now anyone that has been belted in the shin knows that it hurts like the dickens…but what you may not know is that this can actually be a SERIOUS situation.

The condition is known as “Anterior Compartment Syndrome.”  Worst case scenario can result in permanent nerve damage, muscle weakness, and even amputation….

Now before you get too antsy and worried that your high school athlete is going to get significant nerve damage after getting kicked, or that you’re going to lose your leg after running into that pesky trailer hitch; let’s learn a bit more about it!

So on the outside of your shin bone is located the anterior compartment (PS it’s alright to reach down and feel your anatomy…in fact I encourage it).  So you can feel that soft, but springy area which is composed of a bunch of the muscles that control your foot while walking or running.

All those muscles are encased in a sheet of protective tissue called ‘fascia.’  This architecture of muscle bundled in fascia is what can lead to problems….

Now for the fun part.  So whenever a muscle takes a hard hit (contusion) some of the blood vessels get ruptured and “swelling” starts to occur.

In most areas of the body there is plenty of room for that swelling to creep out into….but in the anterior compartment, that covering of fascia doesn’t allow for the swelling. 

INSTEAD it can build up a great deal of pressure in that compartment.  This increase in pressure can in turn cut off blood circulation.  When that happens the muscles and nerves can start to die.

Now its STORYTIME.  So when I was back at school in Connecticut we had a young man come talk to us.  He had been a very successful athlete in high school.  In his junior year he was mid-way through the season when he took a helmet straight to his left lower leg.  As he explained, “It hurt like crazy, but I just had the coach wrap me up and get me back into the game.”  Following the game he put a little ice on it, headed home and went to bed.  About 4 o’clock he woke up to excruciating pain where he had taken the hit.  He got his folks up and they told him to take a couple ibuprofen and try to get some rest.  Twenty minutes later and the pain was unbearable; they hustled over to the hospital and within the hour he was in an emergency surgery.

Luckily they were able to save his leg, but part of his anterior tibialis muscle was removed and to this day he has a significant limp and is unable to run.

All of this came from what seemed like a minor bump.

As always, our goal is to educate you to make good health decisions so let’s discuss the signs and symptoms for you to pay attention to.

First, if you or your kid takes a hard hit to the anterior compartment (the soft springy area on the outside of the shin) then start to pay attention over the next few hours to days.

Second, follow the Rest.Ice.Compression.Elevate principles….(except take out the C.ompression portion).  This will help knock out the inflammation, swelling and reduce pressure.

Third, listen to what your body is telling you.  If the pain keeps building or feels throbbing in the anterior compartment head to the hospital.  If you start losing feeling or have pins and needles in your foot orlower leg head to the hospital.  If your foot starts turning white, blue, purple, red head to the hospital.  If you get crazy swelling in your lower leg…you guessed it head to the hospital.

In the end, this is definitely one of those situations where it is “better to be safe than sorry.”

For further info on preventing athletic injuries check out the ebook