Stress fractures are cracks in bones that happen when there is repetitive force put on the bone over time.
Unlike regular fractures that happen when a sudden force is applied to the bone and it cracks, stress fractures take time to develop. Because of this, they often go unnoticed and ignored for long periods of time, many times until the pain is severe.
Bones are incredibly adaptable and can gradually take on more pressure with time. However, when bones are unaccustomed to significantly more force than typically applied to them, they do not have enough time to adapt to the new level of force. In situations like these, the repeated pressure is applied too quickly for the bones to keep up with it and eventually, stress fractures result.
Stress fractures are most common in the lower extremities, particularly the lower legs and feet.
Why Do Young Athletes Get Stress Fractures?
One group of individuals who commonly get stress fractures are young athletes.
Sports require diligent and repeated practice, sometimes on a daily basis. This is particularly true for high school and college athletes who play football, soccer, lacrosse, or other high-intensity sports and spend several hours a day practicing and playing with their team and friends.
These individuals are used to pain, soreness, and suffering through in order to improve their performance. This is why the pain that occurs before a stress fracture occurs is likely to go unnoticed by them. Young athletes may be playing their sport for several weeks or months before the stress fracture happens. Additionally, athletes who have been playing sports for years but recently increased their activity level or intensity of play are also susceptible to stress fractures.
Treating Stress Fractures
Fortunately, stress fractures are easily treatable. Here are some treatments doctors recommend after a patient has a stress fracture:
- Casting and Protective Footwear – For substantial fractures, doctors may recommend casting or protective footwear to keep the bone in the correct position for proper healing. Determining whether you will need this depends on the location and severity of the stress fracture you have.
- Surgery – In some cases, stress fractures are so severe that doctors recommend surgery to fix the damage. In situations like these, a surgeon will open up the injured area and fix the fracture by repositioning the impacted bones or by using artificial replacement pieces.
- Rest – An important component of whatever treatment you and your doctor decide on, rest can help your stress fractures to heal. This usually means putting no pressure on the affected bone while it’s healing, and refraining from playing sports until the bone has adequate time to heal. This part of treatment can be especially frustrating for young athletes who tend to want to get back to the game as soon as possible.
Once your doctor agrees the stress fracture has healed and that you can resume your sport again, it’s crucial that you resume your activities slowly. Begin by working out and training your body with exercises that do not directly impact the newly healed bone. Gradually increase your physical activity and look out for any signs of pain or stress. Stress fractures can happen again if too much pressure is applied too quickly after healing.
If you are searching for an orthopedic team that can serve all your orthopedic needs, call Florida Sports Medicine & Orthopaedics. Their experts understand the needs of young athletes and focus on healing patients with the intention of improving their athletic performance.