Ain’t that a kick in the shins (Men’s Basketball)

Jim Martinho

Put yourself in Aaron Jennings’ shoes: You’re preparing for your senior year as Northwestern’s starting center. You’re hoping to build on three years of Big Ten experience and finish your career with a bang.

Then, in the final week of workouts before the regular season begins, you begin to feel sharp pains in your lower legs. The diagnosis? Shin splints. The best remedy? Rest, and lots of it.

But you don’t have time.

The 6-foot-11, 240-pound Jennings has been forced to play through the injury all season, due in part to the Wildcats’ lack of frontcourt depth. But the Atkins, Iowa, native has played the most consistent basketball of his career, despite feeling the injury with every step he takes.

Shin splints, technically known as periostitis, result from an inflammation of the periostium, the sheath surrounding the tibia. The injury, which is most commonly found in long distance runners, can be caused by running on hard surfaces or playing sports where a lot of jumping is involved.

NU sophomore cross-country runner Kyna Forkins suffered from shin splints in the spring, which eventually progressed into a stress fracture.

“If you could imagine every time you put pressure on your leg to walk or run, it would send a sharp pain up your shin,” Forkins said. “It’s very nagging because it’s the kind of injury you can train through, but you have to use your own judgment. There may be some days when you feel good because you iced it or stayed off it the day before, but it’s always there.”

Jennings said he works with team trainer Scott Barthlama in a regiment of stretching and strengthening exercises to remedy the injury. He heats his legs before every game and ices them immediately after, but the pain remains. The only real cure is time away from the pounding Jennings’ shins absorb every practice and game.

But Jennings has hardly had the luxury of resting — averaging 30 minutes per game and twice playing 37 minutes —