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Why That Warning About The Dangers Of Skinny Jeans May Be A Big Fat Nothing

Keep your pants on, everyone.

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Readers all around the world were hit with a barrage of stories this week about the dangers of wearing skinny jeans.

"Can Skinny Jeans Be Dangerous? If You Wear Them, Please Read This," said Glamour magazine.

The Washington Post warned that "Blue jeans have been linked with health hazards for decades."

It's time to take a second look at the skinny jeans warning, and what, if any, evidence there is linking this type of clothing with health problems.

The case study tells the remarkable story of an Australian woman who suffered health issues as a result of repeated squatting while wearing skinny jeans.

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According to the case study, the woman was helping a family member move, and this led to her bending and squatting as she picked things up.

"Later that evening, while walking home, she noticed bilateral foot drop and foot numbness, which caused her to trip and fall," the case study said. "She spent several hours lying on the ground before she was found."

She spent four days in hospital and was discharged. Four days in hospital as a result of skinny jeans? That's remarkable and newsworthy.

But it's not a public health emergency, nor does this single case in any way constitute a "study" of skinny jeans, or evidence of their risk to your health.

Suzie Gage, a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Bristol, explained in The Guardian why a single case study is not considered scientific evidence.

In terms of strength of evidence, a case study like this of just one patient is at the bottom of the pyramid of evidence. And it's pretty obvious why – if only one person wearing skinny jeans reports a problem, out of the huge number of people who wear them, this suggests that actually it's a pretty rare occurrence and most people are just fine.

Gary Schwitzer, the publisher of HealthNewsReview.org, told BuzzFeed News that single case studies are "not meant to be every day sources of prime time news for the masses. And that's what happened with this single tight jeans case study."

He said it's not hard to find examples of remarkable single cases documented in medical journals. These publications are a place for physicians to share what they see and learn.

I'm sure we could find journal manuscripts describing multiple cases of accidental impaling by improper use of power nail guns, or mangling of limbs by improper use of blenders or Cuisinarts, or, more likely, multiple cases of bunions/ingrown toenails and more from ill-fitting shoes

His point is that anything can happen once or a few times, but that doesn't mean it's a valid scientific or medical phenomenon.

This case study brought back memories for Schwitzer. Thirty-one years ago he saw a story he'd worked on get dropped by CNN for one based on a single case study about "a woman experiencing nerve problems attributed to wearing jeans that were too tight."

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There appears to be only two other medical case studies about tight jeans, both published in 1984.

One was cited by the authors in the case study about the Australian woman. The other, which was not cited by the authors, focused on a thigh problem suffered by "truck drivers, most of whom were obese and wore tight-fitting denim jeans."

Citing the lack of scientific and medical literature about skinny jeans, Schwitzer said, "I don’t think we’re dealing with a documented international public health emergency here."

"Let's save single case study excitement for events like virgin births," Schwitzer said.

Craig Silverman is Media Editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Toronto.

Contact Craig Silverman at craig.silverman@buzzfeed.com.

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