The pathology of medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS) is unknown. Studies suggest that MTSS is a bony overload injury, but histological evidence is sparse. The presence of microdamage, and its potential association with targeted remodeling, could provide evidence for the pathogenesis of MTSS. Understanding the pathology underlying MTSS could contribute to effective preventative and therapeutic interventions for MTSS. Our aim was to retrospectively evaluate biopsies, previously taken from the painful area in athletes with MTSS, for the presence of linear microcracks, diffuse microdamage and remodeling. Biopsies, previously taken from athletes with MTSS, were evaluated at the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology at the Indiana University. After preparing the specimens by en bloc staining, one investigator evaluated the presence of linear microcracks, diffuse microdamage and remodeling in the specimens. A total of six biopsies were evaluated for the presence of microdamage and remodeling. Linear microcracks were found in 4 out of 6 biopsies. Cracking in one of these specimens was artefactual due to the biopsy procedure. No diffuse microdamage was seen in any of the specimens, and only one potential remodeling front in association with the microcracks. We found only linear microcracks in vivo in biopsies taken from the painful area in 50% of the athletes with MTSS, consistent with the relationship between linear cracks and fatigue-associated overloading of bone. The nearly universal absence of a repair reaction was notable. This suggests that unrepaired microdamage accumulation may underlie the pathophysiological basis for MTSS in athletes.
- Medial tibial stress syndrome
- Shin splints
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
- Orthopedics and Sports Medicine