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Orthopedics

Sports and Fractures

Fractures are breaks in the bone that are often caused by a blow or a fall. A fracture may be classified as a simple fracture (a thin fracture that may not run through the entire bone), or a compound fracture, in which the broken bone protrudes through the skin. Symptoms may include tenderness over the bone, swelling of the affected area, deformity of the limb, and increased pain with movement.

What are stress fractures?

Anatomy of the foot
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Stress fractures are weak spots or small cracks in the bone caused by continuous overuse. Stress fractures often occur in the foot after training for basketball, running, and other sports. The bones in the midfoot (metatarsals) in runners are especially vulnerable to stress fractures.

What are the symptoms of a foot stress fracture?

A stress fracture may not cause swelling. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • Pain in the front of the foot, often after long or intense bouts of exercise

  • Pain that disappears after exercise, then returns when exercise is continued

The symptoms of stress fractures may resemble other conditions and medical problems. Always consult your doctor for a diagnosis.

How is a stress fracture diagnosed?

Diagnosis of a stress fracture usually is confirmed with a complete medical history and a physical examination. X-rays often cannot detect stress fractures because they are so fine, so a CT scan or an MRI may be performed. Once calluses form around the fracture, an X-ray can confirm a stress fracture. Sometimes, a bone scan is performed to detect a stress fracture.

Treatment for a stress fracture

Specific treatment for a stress fracture will be determined by your doctor based on:

  • Your age, overall health, and medical history

  • Extent of the injury

  • Your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, and therapies

  • Expectation for the course of the injury

  • Your opinion or preference

Treatment may include:

  • Rest

  • Cold packs

  • Medication, such as ibuprofen

  • Shock-absorbing shoes to use during exercise

  • Running on soft surfaces, such as grass

  • Physical therapy

  • Switching to a less stressful activity, such as swimming or biking

  • Wearing a brace or cast

Online Medical Reviewer: Bass, Pat F. III, MD, MPH
Online Medical Reviewer: Grantham, Paula, RN, BSN
Last Review Date: 10/29/2012
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