Essay: Human Performance Analysis

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¶ … Shin Splints From Ecs Conditions

This project details the personal experiences of the experimenter in identifying the source of physiological symptoms triggered by sports and fitness activities involving running or extensive (i.e. fast-pace and/or long distance) walking. The experimenter experienced significant discomfort in a localized region of both shins associated with running as a physical fitness activity. Anecdotal information based on the advice from more experienced runners suggested that the problem related to the possibility that the discomfort indicated the early formation stages of "shin splints," a colloquial term for micro fractures in the tibia caused by repetitive impact stress from running-type of activity.

To resolve the problem, the experimenter attempted to identify its cause, in connection with which the experimenter changed footwear to address potential causes attributable to the need to dampen the intensity of repetitive foot-fall impact. When the problem persisted, the experimenter attempted to vary the running surface to further reduce any physiological stress that was a function of impact intensity with harder running surfaces.

The experimenter conducted simultaneous research of scientific literature for the purposes of confirming the initial assumptions about shin splint and to identify other possible causes in the event that the symptoms were associated with alternate physiological issues possibly requiring different solutions. In fact, the experimenter determined that the source of the symptoms were more likely attributable to an alternate diagnosis; namely, to the buildup of intramuscular pressure within the anterior lateral compartment of the tibialis muscles.

More specifically, the muscles involved in raising the foot at the conclusion of each individual foot stride run along the front of the shin bone; they are encased within a thin sheath composed of fascia tissue, as is typical of muscle systems and their attachments throughout the body. As in the case of other areas that are susceptible to Exertion-related Compartment Syndrome (ECS) such as the muscles of the forearms, ECS in the tibial area is caused by insufficient space within the fascia sheath to allow for normal expansion of the muscle during strenuous athletic activity involving those muscle systems. The differentiation of shin splints and chronic ECS problems is crucial because they are distinct conditions with different mechanical causes, and therefore, substantially different methods of treatment most conducive to their resolution.

Methodology

In principle, the methodology consisted of a relatively long-term process of recording the experimenter's symptoms in conjunction with a comparison of the symptoms described within the literature pertaining to shin splints and ECS-related pathology. More particularly, the experimenter recorded all apparent symptoms experienced during, immediately after, one day, and several days after exercise sessions. Those symptoms were then compared to the detailed symptomatology provided within the scientific literature pertaining to shin splints, Exertion-related Compartment Syndrome, and to the established criteria for differentiating between the two different types of ailments commonly affecting runners and other athletes and fitness enthusiasts.

Initial Symptom Awareness Stage

The experimenter began running in the fall of 2009, initially, on an outdoor running track. Almost immediately, the experimenter noticed acute pain in the front (anterior) outside (lateral) portion of the lower leg in the upper region of the tibial bone. The discomfort consisted of a dull ache that increased in intensity with continued running but subsided substantially afterwards. The experimenter ignored the symptoms at first believing they were simply a variation of ordinary aches and pains often caused by athletic activity, particularly in persons who are not accustomed to those activities.

Anecdotal information (in the form of advice provided by more experienced runners) suggested that the symptoms were functions of a phenomenon called "shin splints," a colloquial reference to small fractures developing in the tibial bone itself. Informal advice consisted of decreasing the distances run in each exercise session, increasing the rest and recuperation periods in-between successive exercise sessions, and evaluating the quality and proper fit of running shoes.

Anecdotal Information Collection and Informal Information Confirmation Stage

Prior to conducting a search for scientific literature, the experimenter attempted to follow the advice provided by experienced runners. Specifically, the experimenter cut back on the duration and distance of individual running sessions, increased the rest periods in-between successive running sessions, and invested in a higher quality pair of running shoes. The sales staff at the athletic footwear store concurred with the suspicions of the experienced runners and suggested that insufficient arch support, thickness and quality of the cushioning material, and imprecise fit of the experimenter's running shoes were contributing to excessive impact forces associated with each foot-fall of the running stride.

Additionally, the store personnel suggested that the choice of running surface also might be a contributing factor and indicated that the asphalt-based outdoor running track where the experimenter had been running was among the least forgiving surfaces in that it absorbs very little of the energy of foot-fall impact. In that regard, the salesman expressed optimism that the $120.00 running shoes the experimenter purchased would provide sufficient protection even on hard surfaces, but simultaneously suggested that the experimenter "look into some other types of surfaces" such as modern composite materials used on newer running tracks and natural surfaces such as grassy terrain.

In retrospect, the experimenter should have conducted at least a preliminary search for available empirical research on shin splints before relying on information from any individual whose obvious self-interest (i.e. retail sales) could have accounted for potentially biased information. However, because the information provided by the retail sales personnel matched the anecdotal information supplied by the experienced runners (which presumably did not reflect any potential conflicts on the realm of self-interest), the experimenter began implementing the advice prior to conducting a search for empirical research about shin pains associated with running and the informal concurrent diagnosis of "shin splints" from two independent lay sources.

Realistically, the main impetus for conducting further research for information was the persistence of the problem despite implementation of all of the elements of informal solutions suggested by experienced runners and retailers of running shoes. In that respect, the experimenter first tried changing running shoes, reducing the exercise session duration and distance run during each session, and increasing the rest period from one or two days to three (and then four and five) days in-between exercise sessions. Initially, the experimenter did not change the running surface variable but hoped optimistically that the other elements of the implemented changes would be sufficient to resolve the symptoms without changing the exercise venue.

Survey of Empirical Research on Shin Splints

The experimenter noticed that the changes in workout intensity, duration, and the substitution of footwear seemed to help resolve the symptoms only very moderately. Mainly, those changes merely delayed the onset of discomfort and delayed its escalation to the point of significant discomfort. After initial attempts to resolve the problem as described failed to do so, the experimenter began a search for empirical literature and other authoritative information on shin splints.

According to the available literature, the shin splints actually refers to medial tibial stress syndrome, a condition that has two principle causes: (1) micro-fractures within the tibial bone; and (2) irritation and inflammation of the periosteum tissue lining the tibia (AOS, 2009; NIH, 2007; Wilder & Sethi, 2004). Sports physiologists and orthopedic physicians report that runners vary considerably with respect to their physiology as well as with respect to the biomechanics of their running strides (AOS, 2009; NIH, 2007).

These variations can result in dramatically different exposure of various tissues to impact stress associated with running. In general, runners with poor biomechanics tend to achieve much higher vertical elevation in their strides as compared to better biomechanical strides that minimize vertical clearance between the soles of the feet and the running surface. In turn, the excessive elevation of poor running strides results in much greater impact forces transmitted through the foot and into the tibia; those forces can result in momentary spikes of the equivalent of more than four time the weight of the runner at the point of impact between the sole of the foot and the running surface (Wilder & Sethi, 2004).

The repetitive trauma from kinetic energy produced by shock and compressive loading during the impact phase of the running stride produces micro-fractures of the tibial bone that are initially asymptomatic. Continued exposure to the same stresses before the bone has had the chance to repair itself through the normal biological processes associated with bone cell generation and replacement results in larger cracks caused by the extension of microscopic fractures into one another resulting in medial tibial stress syndrome. The formation of periosteum irritation and inflammation is closely related to processes responsible for medial tibial stress syndrome except that the affected area is closer to the surface of the tibia and primarily affects the periosteum (Schissel & Godwin, 1999; Wilder & Sethi, 2004).

With respect to running, the empirical research into the factors responsible for both conditions include excessive repetitive trauma associated with any of the following elements of running, either alone or in various combinations: (1) poor running mechanics; (2) excessive… [END OF PREVIEW]

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