A stress fracture has become one of the most common injuries in sports. The popularity of this injury tends to stem from the overuse and stress an athlete puts on his or her lower limbs. More than 50 percent of all stress fractures occur in the lower leg, either in the tibia (shin bone) or in the foot.
A stress fracture is a tiny crack in the bone, often caused by increasing the amount or the intensity of an activity too quickly. Some stress fractures may happen when you compete on different types of surfaces or you do not wear the right type of footwear for your activity.
Athletes and women tend to be the groups more susceptible to developing stress fractures. The repetitive movements associated with tennis, track and field, gymnastics, and basketball tend to leave athletes feeling muscle fatigue which can lead to stress fractures. Runners are especially susceptible to stress fractures because of the constant pounding on hard pavement, or the transitioning between several surfaces during one workout. Oftentimes when athletes push themselves too hard, too quickly, their bodies need more time to rest. Getting back out on the court or field too early could potentially result in a stress fracture.
Female athletes tend to have a higher rate of developing stress fractures than male athletes. Medical studies have proven that female athletes are more likely to experience more stress fractures than male athletes when competing in activities like running. As a woman’s bone density decreases, her chances of developing a stress fracture increases.
Diagnosing A Stress Fracture
Oftentimes, stress fractures are diagnosed based on symptoms. Pain is mostly dull around the site of the fracture and usually worsens with exercising, walking, or standing. Sometimes swelling is common around the site. If you suspect a stress fracture, it is important to seek a doctor’s attention immediately. Continuing to run on the affected leg or foot will only worsen the cracked bone and make the recovery process longer.
Most stress fractures are determined with a simple X-Ray, or in some cases, an MRI. Stress fractures are treated best with periods of rest. Staying off of the affected area for six weeks is generally protocol, however depending on the severity, more time may be added. In addition to resting, bracing or shoe inserts may be necessary to treat the affected area.
After getting adequate rest, it is important to return back to one’s sport slowly and cautiously. Getting back to the field or court should be a gentle process in order to keep that area healed and prevent reoccurring fractures.
Stress fractures can be quite debilitating for athletes, so it is extremely important to practice prevention activities like: Cross-training, setting realistic goals, and maintaining a healthy diet. Using proper equipment is also important. Listen to your body and know that it’s okay to take some days for rest. Ignoring your pain and pushing yourself too hard, too quickly, could potentially leave you on the sidelines.