Stress Fracture

A stress fracture is a small crack in a bone. Stress fractures often develop from overuse, such as from high-impact sports like distance running or basketball.

Most stress fractures occur in the weight-bearing bones of the foot and lower leg. Studies show that athletes participating in tennis, track and field, gymnastics, dance, and basketball are at high risk for stress fractures. In all of these sports, the repeated stress of the foot striking the ground can cause problems.

Rest is the key element to recovery from a stress fracture.

Why did I get a stress fracture?

Bone is constantly undergoing changes to adapt to its environment. When astronauts go into space, they are known to develop a thinning of the bone similar to osteoporosis. The reason is that their skeleton is not under the constant demands of gravity, and the bone adapts to that environment. Stress fractures are usually seen in athletes who increase their level of activity over a short period of time. The increased demand placed on the bone causes the bone to remodel and become stronger in the areas of higher stress. However, if the response of the bone cannot maintain the pace of the repetitive demands, a stress fracture may result.

Another factor that can contribute to the development of a stress fracture are dietary abnormalities and menstrual irregularities. Because both factors contribute to bone health, any problems with diet (e.g. poor nutrition, anorexia, bulimia) or menstruation (amenorrhea) may place an individual at higher risk for these injuries. This is one reason that adolescent female athletes are at particularly high risk for development of a stress fracture.

Symptoms

  • Pain that develops gradually, increases with weight-bearing activity, and diminishes with rest
  • Pain that becomes more severe and occurs during normal, daily activities
  • Swelling on the top of the foot or the outside of the ankle
  • Tenderness to touch at the site of the fracture
  • Possible bruising

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