Tibial stress injuries. An aetiological review for the purposes of guiding management

Sports Med. 1998 Oct;26(4):265-79. doi: 10.2165/00007256-199826040-00005.


In the last 30 years, few advances have been made in the management of tibial stress injuries such as tibial stress fracture and medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS). Tibial overuse injuries are a recognised complication of the chronic, intensive, weight-bearing training commonly practised by athletic and military populations. Generally, the most effective treatment is considered to be rest, often for prolonged periods. This is a course of action that will significantly disrupt an active lifestyle, and sometimes end activity-related careers entirely. There is now considerable knowledge of the nature of tibial stress injuries, such that presently accepted management practices can be critically evaluated and supplemented. Most recent investigations suggest that tibial stress injuries are a consequence of the repetitive tibial strain imposed by loading during chronic weight-bearing activity. Evidence is presented in this article for an association between repeated tibial bending and stress injury as a function of: (i) strain-related modelling (in the case of MTSS), and (ii) a strain-related positive feedback mechanism of remodelling (in the case of stress fracture). Factors that influence the bending response of the tibia to loading are reviewed. Finally, a guide for injury prevention and management based on research observations is presented.

MeSH terms

  • Athletic Injuries / physiopathology
  • Athletic Injuries / therapy
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Bone Remodeling
  • Electric Stimulation Therapy
  • Fractures, Stress / etiology*
  • Fractures, Stress / physiopathology
  • Fractures, Stress / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Syndrome
  • Tibial Fractures / etiology*
  • Tibial Fractures / physiopathology
  • Tibial Fractures / therapy*