A stress fracture is a result of repetitive stress on the bones that cause small cracks to develop. This stress can come from high-impact activities or a sudden increase in intensity of activity. Symptoms include pain and swelling.
Prompt diagnosis and appropriate treatment are crucial for managing stress fractures in athletes. This article discusses stress fractures in athletes and how they are diagnosed, treated, and prevented.
How Stress Fractures Are Diagnosed
When a stress fracture is suspected, orthopedic specialists often begin with a physical exam and an X-ray. However, in some cases, initial radiographs may be negative, as stress fractures are very thin, requiring other types of medical imaging techniques, such as MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) or CT (computerized tomography) scans to provide a more detailed view of the fracture.
How Stress Fractures Are Treated
It is important to allow a stress fracture to heal before an athlete returns to their sport. Stress fracture treatment usually includes:
1. Rest and Activity Modification
The primary treatment for most stress fractures is rest and activity modification. This involves discontinuing sports activities that put pressure on the area and allowing the fractured bone to heal.
Non-weight-bearing crutches may be used to relieve pain and prevent further stress on the fracture.
2. Pain Management
To alleviate pain and discomfort, medication such as analgesics and anti-inflammatories can help the patient have a more comfortable recovery.
3. Physical Therapy
Physical therapy is part of rehabilitation from a stress fracture injury. An athlete’s PT program may include muscle strengthening exercises, stretching exercises, cardiovascular training, and sports-specific training. The athlete should slowly ease into weight-bearing activities and aim for a gradual progression to reduce the risk of future injuries.
4. Bracing and Casting
Bracing or casting are often necessary to immobilize the body part and keep it in proper position during the healing process.
Surgery may be necessary to ensure the broken bone heals. This is usually recommended if the stress fracture is in an area with poor blood supply or if the athlete needs to return to their sport quickly.
How To Prevent Stress Fractures in Athletes
Preventing stress fractures is ideal for athletes in order to maintain their peak performance and keep them playing their sport.
A sports medicine doctor can provide specific recommendations, however, here are some general preventive measures:
1. Advance Slowly
Athletes should gradually increase their training intensity, duration, and frequency, allowing sufficient time for bones and muscles to adapt to the demands placed on them.
2. Wear the Proper Footwear
Wearing appropriate footwear that provides adequate support, cushioning, and shock absorption can help reduce the impact on the bones and lower the risk of stress fractures. There is footwear designed specifically for each sport.
3. Incorporate Cross-Training
Incorporating cross-training or activities other than the athlete’s sport can help create a balanced program and prevent overuse injuries by distributing stress more evenly across different bone and muscle groups.
4. Eat for Nutrition
A balanced diet rich in calcium and vitamin D is crucial for maintaining strong and healthy bones that are more resistant to breaking.
5. If You Feel Pain – Stop
Pay attention to any warning signs, such as pain, discomfort, or changes in your performance. Do not play through the pain.
If you want to maintain your competitive advantage as an athlete, seek the appropriate treatment for a suspected stress fracture. Sports medicine doctors can provide comprehensive injury treatment and prevention services specifically for you.
Sports Medicine Doctor in Naples, FL
Our sports medicine doctor at the Joint Replacement Institute in Naples, Florida, Dr. Brian Wallace, can provide expert treatment for your injury. Dr. Wallace works with athletes of all levels to restore their function and optimize their performance.
For an orthopedic doctor who understands your needs as an athlete, put your confidence and trust in Dr. Wallace. To schedule an appointment, call our office located near you at (239) 261-2663 or use our online request form.
We look forward to providing you with the best sports medicine treatments in Naples, Florida.