Stress fractures are one of the most common sports injuries. Overcoming them can be difficult but is certainly possible. They are classified as an overuse injury. Fatigued muscles become unable to absorb shock and transfer the overload to the bone causing tiny cracks. It is estimated that more than half of them occur in the bones of the foot and the lower leg.
A sudden increase in the intensity or a duration of an activity doesn’t allow the bone sufficient time to adapt. The excessive force causes rapid destruction (resorption) of bone tissue coupled with insufficient remodelling making you more susceptible to such fractures.
An unfamiliar surface such as a runner used to a treadmill hitting the tarmac, increased physical stress such as increased playing time of a volleyball player, or improper equipment, usually footwear, are other common culprits.
The likelihood of stress fractures is higher in:
Symptoms and diagnosis
Initially, stress fractures can be barely noticeable as the cracks in the bone are only minor but the pain tends to worsen over time. Swelling in the area is possible and the pain tends to subside with rest.
X-rays may or may not be able to detect a stress fracture, so a computed topography (CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be required.
It is essential to contact a doctor if the pain becomes severe or persists even at rest.
In general, rest is the best treatment route coupled with discontinuing the activity that caused the problem. If the activity that caused the fracture is resumed too quickly, re-injury and further complications are very likely.
Prevention (is indeed better than cure in this case)
By embracing the following best-practices, the likelihood of stress fractures can be significantly reduced:
Last but not least, be in touch with your body. Knowing the symptoms and risk factors and being acutely aware of how you feel, can help you spot potential issues before they materialise.