Avoiding Stress Fractures in Athletes

Athletes improve by pushing themselves – but pushing too hard can cause small cracks in the bone, most often in the feet or lower legs. Stress fracture, the bane of both competitive and recreational athletes, is a fairly common injury that takes time to heal.  

Stress fractures happen when a person attempts more than their body can handle. This is quite common in athletes in late summer/early fall, when football players are engaged in two-a-days and cross country runners are increasing their mileage.

Stress fractures are usually painful with weight bearing. You may feel it when you walk, but it gets worse when you run or jump. The symptoms can be similar to those of shin splints or other injuries, so doctors arrive at their diagnosis by putting together the story the patient tells and ordering an MRI scan.

Most stress fractures do not appear in an X-ray, but a Magnetic Resonance Image can show swelling around the bone.

The majority of stress fractures heal on their own, sometimes taking up to eight weeks.  In the mean time, rest is prescribed.

Stress fractures typically mean the end of the season for some athletes. Others are able to use heat and ice and pain medications to get through the season.

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