Skinny jeans have been blamed for many things, from the downfall of American men to #Bendgate, but hardly ever for medical issues. A recently published case study, however, attempts to slap a health warning on the use of skinny jeans.
With a title worthy of a Daily Mail article – “Fashion victim: rhabdomyolysis and bilateral peroneal and tibial neuropathies as a result of squatting in ‘skinny jeans’ ” – it’s unsurprising that this story of a 30-year old “fashion victim” should capture the attention of the world’s media outlets spawning a series of articles that highlight the purported dangers of skinny jeans. The causative link between skinny jeans and the woman’s condition, however, is tenuous at best.
Rhabdomyolysis is the breakdown of muscle tissue and, according to Dr. Athe Tsibris, is mainly caused by “either overuse of the muscle or crush injury.” In the case of our fashion victim, she suffered both: overexertion of her muscles by continuous squatting while helping a family member move and crush injury when she fell. Peroneal and tibial neuropathies can lead to a feeling of numbness and difficulty walking, and are caused by compression of nerves in the leg. The most likely scenario is that the squatting caused the rhabdomyolysis, which then compressed the nerves in the woman’s leg thus leading her to fall, which worsened her rhabdomyolysis. As such, skinny jeans may have contributed to the woman’s condition but most likely did not cause it.
Furthermore, in the hierarchy of evidence, case studies such as this one are right at the bottom of the ladder . It would be one thing if the paper reported a strong correlation between the increase in skinny jeans usage and rhabdomyolysis cases, which would support a further exploration of this connection. But a case study’s job is generally to report an interesting, yet rare medical anecdote. In short, skinny jeans are not dangerous and you may continue to rock them until fashion decrees the rebirth of the flare .
Acknowledgements: Special thanks to Dr. Athe Tsibris, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School, for expert commentary on rhabdomyolysis and neuropathies.
Managing Correspondent: Fernanda Ferreira