We see our fair share of injuries throughout our days at Sideline. If we bet candy on which injuries we would see on any given day, anyone betting on stress fractures, would get more loot than on Halloween!
One of the most common injuries we see, especially in athletes, is stress fractures. If a bone is subjected to repetitive physical stress, a small crack can develop. Over half of all stress fractures occur in the lower leg and feet; those bones bear the brunt of your weight most of the time, which means they handle the most stress.
Athletes are particularly prone to stress fractures, because stress fractures often occur after increasing the amount or intensity of physical activity too quickly, putting your body under greater physical stress than it’s accustomed to. Running for 7 miles after you’ve only ever run 3, for example, puts you at a higher risk for a stress fracture; a basketball player going from 1 hour on the court a week to 15 hours would also be at a higher risk. Improper equipment and surface impact can also cause stress fractures.
How do you know when you’ve got a stress fracture? The best indicator is pain. Depending on where the break is, the pain can feel deep within the body part, as well as tender at the site of the fracture. If you notice recurring pain during or immediately after physical activity, make an appointment or visit us during walk-in hours. We may need to do an x-ray to confirm it’s a fracture and not a sprain, strain, or more serious injury.
Once diagnosed, stress fractures are easily treated with rest. We know that’s one of the hardest things for an athlete to do, but trust us: healing a minor stress fracture the right way the first time will help prevent re-injury, or the development of larger fractures that will keep you off your feet for even longer. If you have to walk, using orthotics or other cushioning inserts can help reduce pain and further stress to your bones. Talk with your doctor about what exercises you can do while resting; if the fracture is in your foot, you can still do upper body workouts or swim. Always check with a professional before pushing your limits.
Thankfully, you can decrease your risk for stress fractures by playing and training smart. Gradually increasing your running mileage, and field or court time; always wearing shoes that fit properly and aren’t worn or old (the general rule for athletic shoes is replace every 350-500 miles); and resting between workouts and competitions can help prevent stress fractures. Most importantly, always make sure you warm up before any intense physical activity.
If you’re just starting a consistent workout regiment, consider using a personal trainer. These professionals will know exactly how to gradually increase the intensity of your workouts, and will help make sure you aren’t going too hard too fast.
Further, make sure you’re drinking that milk and strengthening those bones! Strong bones can handle higher stress better than weak ones. Cheese, yogurt, spinach, white beans, and salmon are all rich in calcium and vitamin D, as are fortified foods like certain cereals and orange juices (check the label for vitamin and mineral content!).
Stress fractures, like any injury, should be taken seriously. If you think something’s off, get it checked out! We have walk-in hours and three convenient office locations throughout the New River Valley in order to provide you with the best care at a time and place that works best for you.