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Why Athletes Shouldn’t Power Through a Stress Fracture

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Why Athletes Shouldn’t Power Through a Stress Fracture

Athletes face an inherent risk of injury while on the field, on the court, on the ice, in the water, or even on horseback. No matter your sport of choice, sports injuries can happen, and one of the most common is an overuse injury called a stress fracture. Athletes who are most at risk for a stress fracture are those who increase the intensity of their workout too quickly, those who play their sport year-round without giving themselves adequate rest or recovery time, athletes who don’t cross-train, and those who lack proper athletic technique.

Even though many athletes firmly adhere to the adage “no pain, no gain,” it’s unadvisable to “power through” and play with a stress fracture. In fact, doing so could lead to an even more severe injury that takes even more time to recover from. Although it’s undeniably a disappointment for an active person to hear they need to let their body heal before getting back in the game, it’s the best way to ensure they don’t become reinjured.

What Is a Stress Fracture?

A fracture is another term for a broken bone, but a stress fracture is different from other types of fractures in that it typically doesn’t happen in a single traumatic incident like a fall or collision. Rather, a stress fracture occurs over time from overuse, and they typically occur in a foot, where one-fourth of all bones of the human skeleton are found. However, stress fractures can occur in any bone, including the ankles, the tibia of the lower leg, the femoral neck of the hip joint, or even the upper extremities for athletes who do lots of overhead movements. Stress fractures are most often found in bones from the middle of the foot to the toes, though. A stress fracture is characterized by tiny cracks in the surface of the bone, and although small, it typically takes about 8 weeks for the bone injured in a stress fracture to mend and heal completely.

Stress Fracture Diagnosis & Treatment

A sports medicine physician will meet with their patient to discuss any recent changes in the type, intensity, duration, or frequency of their physical activity leading up to when the pain of the stress fracture started. X-ray images will be ordered to look for any evidence of a healing fracture. If the doctor cannot visualize a stress fracture on an X-ray but still suspects one is present, an MRI or CT can be may necessary to evaluate the painful area further.

Treatment for a stress fracture involves immobilizing the broken bone with a cast or walking boot either with or without crutches. This period may last up to 6 weeks before the athlete is allowed to slowly return to their sport. When preparing to start athletics again, the athlete should take the necessary steps to prevent future stress fractures by taking steps like monitoring their training schedule to make sure they aren’t overexerting themselves. Likewise, they should gradually increase the intensity of their workout by no more than 10 to 15% per week while getting back into shape.

Contact Fox Valley Orthopedics for Sports Injury Treatment Rehabilitation

If you’re experiencing symptoms of a stress fracture, you may notice gradually increasing pain with weight-bearing activity that decreases with rest. You will notice swelling or tenderness at the fracture site and possible bruising. Any of these signs are a good reason to visit your doctor for an evaluation and possible treatment if you have sustained a stress fracture or another injury.

To schedule an appointment with Fox Valley Orthopedics for stress fracture diagnosis and treatment, please call (630) 584-1400 or reach out online today.