How Hockey Player Sophie Barnwell Overcame Her Shin Splints Injury

Injury is something that no-one wants to face. It can be annoying, frustrating and it can drive you crazy, especially if you can’t fix the root cause of the problem and it keeps coming back.

Shin splints in one of the common hockey injuries that hockey players face, especially teenagers who are growing at an extraordinary rate. But there is hope…

This is an inspiring story of how you shouldn’t let your injuries hold your hockey back. Sophie Barnwell from Ireland shares her message of hope to others and how her injury inspired her to reach higher levels in hockey. 

Sophie writes:

“I was 15 years old when I first discovered a shooting pain down the front of both my legs, from my knee to my ankle. It felt like I had been stabbed with a dagger every time I pains It also felt like someone had inserted a metal pole into my leg so that I couldn’t bend my foot or ankle to run.

At first I had no idea what it was, I was young, my parents told me it was probably growing pains. I played hockey that whole season with these pains and could barely run on the pitch but I pushed myself because I wasn’t going to let these ‘growing pains’ stop me.

The next season of hockey I turned 16. Everything started off ok, but once we got into the swing of training and matches the horrible pains came back. I then went home and researched the internet for anything I could find about pains at the front of your legs. I did this for a few weeks and finally realised it had to be shin splints.

I begged my parents to take me to the physiotherapist, and eventually, after much argument on what this pain might be, they did. The physio wasn’t helpful; he gave me pelvic floor exercises and breathing exercises. He told me that my pain was coming from the way I breathe and step when I play hockey.K tape

I followed exactly what the physio said but nothing changed. So, I re-visited the internet again. I couldn’t even play a full match at this stage, let alone half a match. I went to see another physiotherapist. This time a woman, she told me that my muscles were small and that I needed to stretch my glutes and calves every day. I found her helpful but still nothing changed. I also bought KT tape but it didn’t change anything.” 

The turning point

“After I turned 17, the turning point came. I had been playing for the 1st team from age 14 and one day during a game I had to came off the field because of my shin splints. A teacher came up to me and told me that if I didn’t do something about my shin splints I was going to be dropped. He told me they didn’t need a cripple like me on the team that can’t even play a full match.

I was distraught with what he said, I cried a lot. It was horrible trying so hard to get rid of something that just wouldn’t go away. I wanted to show that teacher that what he said was wrong. I went home and spent the next few days emailing, researching, buying what I needed, etc.foam roll 

I bought myself a good foam roller, insoles for my shoes, an elastic band and Epsom salts. Every day before hockey and after hockey I had a ritual. Before hockey I would foam roll my whole body – calves, hamstrings, glutes, and my back.

I then stretched all these muscles holding each for 10-15 seconds at home, then I would stretch again with my team at training. epsom

Static stretching isn’t always good of course, but it worked for me in this case. I used my insoles in my shoes playing hockey. After my training or a match I always had an Epsom salt bath in warm water. It is fantastic for easing out the muscles after a workout.

Every three to four weeks I would go to get a full body sports massage which helped me a lot too.” She couldn’t believe that not one physio recommended any of these things to her.

What about now?

Sophie Barnwell

Sophie back playing hockey again

Sophie is 19 now and I hasn’t had shin splints since. She now plays for a division 1 team in Ireland and got her first cap for her national team, as well as most valuable player and sports star of the year. That teacher apologised to her and she is really happy that she was able to prove it to him.

She then went on to say:

“I want people to know that if they ever suffer from an injury like shin splints that they can always get past it. Never let an injury set you back.”

This is a great bit of advice from someone who has overcome one of the more common hockey injuries that many hockey players face. What makes this story so great is the attitude that Sophie had throughout her injury challenge. She was determined to fight it because she realised how much hockey mean’t to her.

It’s a great example of the kind of thinking that we need in order to achieve our goals, overcome obstacles and reach higher levels.

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About The Author

Lauren Penny

Lauren is a former International Hockey Player, Performance Coach & Mentor specialising in helping hockey players to be more confident, improve their fitness and perform more consistently to get noticed and reach higher teams.