Document Type


Publication/Presentation Date

February 2021


2021. Epub ahead of print.


Feb 12:1941738120988691




Background: Tibial bone stress injuries are common among the athletic adolescent population. A thorough patient history and clinical examination are essential to identify the location and extent of injury. However, there has been little description or any validation of clinical tests to help guide clinicians. Consequently, a formal diagnosis is usually dependent on results from proper imaging.Hypothesis: Clinical examinations will be both highly sensitive and specific determining the incidence, grade, and location of tibial bone stress injury as compared with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).Study Design: Case-control.Level of Evidence: Level 2.Methods: A total of 80 consecutive athletic adolescents, from various sports, with greater than 1-week history of shin pain were enrolled in this institutional review board–approved study. Exclusion criteria were age >19 years and history of traumatic injury. Patients underwent a standardized clinical examination, which included a fulcrum test (FT), tap/percussion test (TT), vibration test (VT) utilizing a 128-Hz tuning fork, weight bearing lunge test (WBLT) to determine degree of dorsiflexion range of motion (ROM), and vertical single leg hop test (VSLHT) for height, landing, and pain. Bilateral lower extremity MRI was completed on the same day as clinical evaluation and served as the injury reference. Sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive value (PPV) and negative predictive value (NPV) were calculated to evaluate each clinical examination for its ability to identify a bone stress injury.Results: A total of 159 tibiae in 80 patients were evaluated. No single test or combination of tests was both highly sensitive and specific. Individual clinical tests demonstrated sensitivity ranging from 0.11 to 0.72 and specificity ranging from 0.37 to 0.93. The VSLHT noting an increase in pain was the most sensitive test (0.72; 95% CI, 0.62-0.78); however, its specificity was only 0.37 (95% CI, 0.19-0.55), with a PPV of 0.84 (95% CI, 0.78-0.91) and NPV of 0.20 (95% CI, 0.089-0.31). The WBLT demonstrated a mean ROM of 8 cm, with side-to-side differences (range 0-4 cm) not influencing incidence of injury. Combinations of tests demonstrated low sensitivity (0.03-0.40), with better specificity (0.63-1.0). When considering ability to identify higher grades of injury (grade III/IV), all tests had a high NPV indicating that if clinical tests were negative, there was a high likelihood that the patient did not have a grade III or IV injury.Conclusion: No single test or combination of tests was both highly sensitive and specific. Clinicians cannot solely rely on clinical examination for determining extent or severity of bone stress injury in the athletic adolescent population, but when combinations of tests are negative, there is likely not a high-grade bone stress injury.Clinical Relevance: Clinical tests utilized in the evaluation of adolescent tibial bone stress injury may help indicate the presence or absence of higher grade tibial bone stress injury.