I have a lot of patients who are athletes. I love treating athletes because they are so in tune with their bodies and they are very open to keeping themselves as healthy as possible. After watching the NCAA tournament and seeing Louisville player Kevin Ware have that horrible fracture, I investigated his injury further. There is a LOT of speculation that he may have had a pre-existing stress fracture in his leg that contributed to his compound fracture during the Final Four.
This week I have had the unfortunate situation where 3 athletes presented with various stress fractures in their feet. All three are training competitively and all are working hard to heal as quickly as possible to get back in the game. I wanted to share with you some signs and symptoms of a stress fracture and how we treat them to hopefully avoid Kevin’s unfortunate injury.
Signs and Symptoms:
1. Pain with exercise or pain when you try to increase your duration/intensity/distance.
2. Pain will usually go away with rest.
3. Swelling will occur if you continue to exercise on the injured extremity.
4. In the feet, they usually occur in the metatarsal bones (right behind the toes).
Stress fractures happen to 1) bone that is weak or 2) bone that is excessively overused.
How do we treat stress fractures:
1. REST. An athlete’s worst nightmare, but resting that extremity will help in letting the bone heal and become stronger so you can get back into your activity faster.
2. ICE. Icing the area at least 2-3 times/day will decrease inflammation and swelling.
3. COMPRESSION. We like walking boots. They keep your foot safe and out of inappropriate shoes and remind you (and everyone else!) that you are nursing an injury. These types of breaks heal and feel better quickly, so protecting and compressing the injured extremity will keep you from reinjuring it!
4. EVERYTHING ELSE. We sometimes order an MRI to determine the soft tissue damage and how affected the bone shaft is. I will also recommend that activities (running, basketball, etc) stop for at least 2-6 weeks (depending on how well you respond to 1-3 above!!) and go back into the activity very gradually.
With patience and the appropriate game plan, you can get back at it much more quickly! If you are concerned about pain while you are running or playing a sport (or your child is complaining of that as well), please call our office at 309-661-9975 for a consultation! We want to keep you in the game!! You can also visit our website at www.heartlandfootandankle.com for more information on our practice and how to protect those feet while exercising!