Stress fractures are the most common reported injury in sports medicine. Essentially, these types of fractures are overuse injuries. The muscle fatigues and cannot withstand further shock. The muscle transfers the load to the bone, which isn’t equipped to handle the stress, causing a tiny crack defined as a stress fracture.
Individuals are most likely to incur stress fractures following an increase in intensity or activity. Training on an unfamiliar surface is also a common source of stress fractures. The change in impact may alter the body’s ability to absorb stresses. Using improper equipment, like less flexible shoes, or increased physical stress from training more are also common causes of a stress fracture. More than 50 percent of all stress fractures occur in the bones of the lower leg and foot. These bones are the primary weight-bearing bones in the body.
Repetitively striking the ground with your feet places additional stress on the muscles. Athletes participating in tennis, gymnastics, basketball, and running are increasingly vulnerable to developing stress fractures. Rest between games or activities benefit the muscles and reduces the risk of injury.
The most appropriate treatment for stress fractures is rest. Patients should take a break from the activity to which they attribute the stress fracture. They may continue to train, only practicing pain-free activities for about six to eight weeks. If athletes continue to practice as they did before the fracture occurred, more complex fractures may develop. Serious, long-lasting complications will occur, and the fracture may never heal properly.
Stress fractures are easily preventable with proper training practices. Gradually building on activities and cross training prevents injury by managing stress on weight bearing bones. Maintaining a healthy diet, including calcium and Vitamin D rich foods, promotes strong bones and prevents fractures as well. Athletes should also always use proper, well-fitting equipment.