HOUSTON -- What you think may be shin splints can put you on the sidelines.

A Houston dancer learned this after she was determined to return to the stage after a painful problem that she initially thought were shin splints.

Shannon Lindamood is currently in two productions at the Houston Grand Opera and spends her days dancing from morning to night.

I remember coming off the dance floor and falling on the ground and being in pain and not understanding why, she said.

Lindamood was initially diagnosed with shin splints, a severe leg pain along the shin from exertion and overuse, but she actually had a stress fracture at the front of her shin bone.

I think dancers and athletes have a high tolerance for pain, and maybe I didn t communicate how painful it was, she said. But I was diagnosed with shin splints and I continued to dance for six months.

Methodist orthopedic surgeon Dr. Kevin Varner immediately recognized the problem.

People come in and think they have shin splints, he said. It s an area of bone that s cracked and filled in with scar tissue and won t go on to heal.

Since it s nearly impossible for such a break to mend itself, Varner recommended a surgical fix to the fracture. He helped pioneer the technique.

Using a rod down the canal of the tibia is the fastest way for us to get these to heal and return them to their sport or activity, he said.

Left untreated, severe stress fractures like Lindamood s can travel and cause a big break in the tibia.

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