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Doctor’s Corner: Stress Fractures In Sports

By Doctor Isaac Gabriel Otuk

A stress fracture is an overuse injury. It occurs when muscles become fatigued and are unable to absorb added shock. Eventually, the fatigued muscle transfers the overload of stress to the bone causing a tiny crack called a stress fracture.

Stress fracture of metatarsal bone in foot
The weight-bearing bones of the foot and lower leg are especially vulnerable to stress fractures.

Common Causes Of Fractures

Increasing the amount or intensity of an activity too rapidly mostly in regards to mileage.

Impact of an unfamiliar surface forexample a tennis player who has switched surfaces from a soft clay court to a hard court, a road or track runner changing terrain or surface (I have personally experienced it when doing my ultra distance runs especially those higher than 60 miles when done back to back weekends without having enough time to recover fully.

Improper equipment (a runner using worn or less flexible shoes)

Increased physical stress (a basketball player who has had a substantial increase in playing time without proper integration).

Parts Of The Skeletal System Affected By Stress Fractures

Most stress fractures occur in the weightbearing bones of the lower leg and the foot. More than 50 percent of all stress fractures occur in the lower leg.
(TIBIA,FOOT BONES/METATARSALS)

Risks To Stress Fractures.

Athletes participating in tennis, track and field (road runs, track runs involving alot of mileage especially in Training for example (400meters to 10,000 meters ) , gymnastics, and basketball are very susceptible to stress fractures. In all of these sports, the repetitive stress of the foot striking the ground can cause trauma. Without sufficient rest between workouts or competitions, an athlete is at risk for developing a stress fractures.

NOTE: A great warm up ,cool down and flexibility is a important factor in managing risk

NOTE:
Stress fractures affect people of all ages who participate in repetitive sporting activities, like running.

Female athletes may experience more stress fractures than their male counterparts.
This can be attributed to a condition referred to as “the female athlete triad” involving eating disorders (bulimia or anorexia), amenorrhea (infrequent menstrual cycle), and osteoporosis. As a female’s bone mass decreases, her chances of getting a stress fracture increase.

Common Symptoms Of Stress Fractures

Pain with activity is the most common complaint with a stress fracture. This pain subsides with rest.

IMAGING.
Stress fractures can be seen on Xrays though sometimes,they may not be visible or clear in relation to the signs a patient is showing.Bone scans can be of help.

Treatment Of Stress Fracture.

1.Rest is most important. Athletes can rest from the activity that caused the stress fracture, and engage in a pain-free activity during the six to eight weeks it takes most stress fractures to heal.

If the activity that caused the stress fracture is resumed too quickly, larger, harder-to-heal stress fractures can develop. Re-injury also could lead to chronic(over use Injury) problems where the stress fracture might never heal properly.

2.In addition to rest, shoe inserts or braces may be used to help these injuries heal.

SOME PREVENTION STRATEGIES.

1.When participating in any new sports activity, set incremental goals. For example, do not immediately set out to run five miles a day; instead, gradually build up your mileage on a weekly basis.

2.Cross-training alternating activities that accomplish the same fitness goals can help to prevent injuries like stress fractures. Instead of running every day to meet cardiovascular goals, run on even days and bike on odd days.

3.Add some strength training and flexibility exercises to the mix for the most benefit.

4.Maintain a healthy diet. Make sure you incorporate calcium- and Vitamin D-rich foods in your meals.

5.Use the proper equipment. Do not wear old or worn running shoes.
If pain or swelling occurs, immediately stop the activity and rest for a few days. If continued pain persists, seek a consult.I humbly welcome more additions or Questions.Take Care


The Author is Isaac Gabriel Otuk, the CEO of Fitness Health Nutrition Sports (FHNS) company.

THE FHNS brand provides sports medicine like injury management and REHABILITATION services, injury Prevention programs and performance enhancing services to Athletes from all sports disciplines in Uganda, East Africa and around the world through its Physical and online medical Platforms.

Mail – [email protected]
Phone – +256778092815

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