Objective: The purpose of this study was twofold: to determine whether asymptomatic distance runners exhibit cortical tibial abnormalities on CT and to determine the diagnostic accuracy of CT in athletes with medial tibial stress syndrome.
Materials and methods: A cross-sectional study with high-resolution CT of both tibiae was performed on 41 subjects: 20 asymptomatic distance runners, 11 distance runners with unilateral or bilateral pain due to medial tibial stress syndrome (14 painful tibiae), and 10 volunteers not involved in a sport. The group was composed of 13 women and 28 men, ranging in age from 18 to 26 years. A total of 82 tibiae, 14 painful and 68 painless, were evaluated. On the basis of CT findings, tibiae were classified in three groups, and correlation between CT classification and symptoms was made.
Results: Among distance runners, the presence of CT abnormalities was found in 14 (100%) of 14 painful tibiae in patients with medial tibial stress syndrome and in 8 (16.6%) of 48 painless tibiae. The difference was statistically significant (p < 0.001, Fisher's exact test). Sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive value, negative predictive value, and accuracy of CT in diagnosing medial tibial stress syndrome were 100%, 88.2%, 63.6%, 100%, and 90.2%, respectively.
Conclusion: High-resolution CT has high diagnostic accuracy in depicting medial tibial stress syndrome. Cortical abnormalities can also be seen in some asymptomatic distance runners.