Objective: To describe the characteristic presentation of exertional leg pain in athletes and to discuss the diagnostic options and surgical management of exertional anterior compartment syndrome of the leg in this group of patients.
Methods: Data from a series of athletes presenting with exertional leg pain were analysed and categorized according to aetiology.
Results: Sixty-six athletes presenting with exertional leg pain in 102 limbs were analysed. Sixteen patients in a first group of 20 patients with a provisional diagnosis of exertional anterior compartment syndrome of the leg underwent a closed fasciotomy with complete resolution of symptoms. A second group of 42 patients were diagnosed as medial tibial stress syndrome and a third group of four patients had confirmed stress fracture of the tibia.
Conclusion: Exertional leg pain is a common presenting complaint of athletes to sports physicians and physiotherapists. Careful analysis can lead to an accurate diagnosis and commencement of effective treatment. Exertional anterior compartment syndrome can be successfully treated utilizing a closed fasciotomy with a rapid return to sport.