A Case of Medieval Shin Splints

The bane of new runners even circa 1415?

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Life was hard enough in medieval times, what with your bubonic plagues, 100-year wars, lack of coffee bars, things like that. To add injury to insult, it now appears that what are usually thought of as modern running injuries weren't unheard of.

Writing in Acta Orthopaedica, researchers from the University of Athens School of Medicine describe what they say is a case of medial tibial stress syndrome, or shin splints, in a skeleton that came from a Byzantine graveyard in Rhodes, Greece.

The researchers estimate the man died between 500 and 800 years ago, and was between 20 and 30 years old when he died. The researchers say that lesions along his tibia bones are consistent with the symptoms of shin splints.

As the researchers note, shin splints are commonly thought of as an exercise-induced injury; they're among the most frequent injuries in beginning runners. But shin splints can arise from conceivably any type of repetitive weight-bearing activity. The skeleton also showed signs of osteoarthritis in the ankle joint, a relatively rare site; this finding supports the idea that the man engaged in some activity involving repetitive loading of the lower legs, the researchers say.

We suggest the subject might have avoided shin splints if he'd followed the kindler, gentler methods of the era's most famous coach, Jeffrey by Way of the Gallows.

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