Chronic shin splints. Classification and management of medial tibial stress syndrome

Sports Med. 1986 Nov-Dec;3(6):436-46. doi: 10.2165/00007256-198603060-00005.


A clinical classification and treatment programme has been developed for chronic medial tibial stress syndrome. Medial tibial stress syndrome has been reported to be either tibial stress fracture or microfracture, tibial periostitis, or distal deep posterior chronic compartment syndrome. Three chronic types exist and may coexist: Type I (tibial microfracture, bone stress reaction or cortical fracture); type II (periostalgia from chronic avulsion of the periosteum at the periosteal-fascial junction); and type III (chronic compartment syndrome syndrome). Type I disease is treated nonoperatively. Operations for resistant types II and III medial tibial stress syndrome were performed in 41 patients. Bilaterality was common (type II, 50% type III, 88%). Seven had coexistent type II/III; one had type I/II. Preoperative symptoms averaged 24 months in type II, 6 months in type III, and 33 months in types II/III. Mean age was 22 years (15 to 51). Resting compartment pressures were normal in type II (mean 12 mm Hg) and elevated in type III and type II/III (mean 23 mm Hg). Type II and type II/III patients received fasciotomy plus periosteal cauterisation. Type III patients had fasciotomy only. All procedures were performed on an outpatient basis using local anaesthesia. Follow up was complete and averaged 6 months (2 to 14 months). Improved performance was as follows: type II, 93%, type III, 100%; type II/III, 86%. Complete cures were as follows: type II, 78%; type III, 75%; and type II/III, 57%. This experience suggests that with precise diagnosis and treatment involving minimal risk and cost the athlete has a reasonable chance of return to full activity.

MeSH terms

  • Athletic Injuries / diagnosis
  • Athletic Injuries / pathology
  • Athletic Injuries / rehabilitation
  • Athletic Injuries / surgery*
  • Chronic Disease
  • Compartment Syndromes / etiology
  • Compartment Syndromes / surgery
  • Fasciotomy
  • Humans
  • Pain / etiology
  • Running*
  • Stress, Mechanical
  • Tibia / injuries*
  • Tibia / pathology
  • Tibia / physiopathology
  • Tibia / surgery
  • Time Factors