Stress Fractures of the Foot & Ankle

A stress fracture is a small crack in a bone. Stress fractures often develop from overuse, such as from high-impact sports like distance running or basketball.

Most stress fractures occur in the weight-bearing bones of the foot and lower leg. Studies show that athletes participating in tennis, track and field, gymnastics, dance, and basketball are at high risk for stress fractures. In all of these sports, the repeated stress of the foot striking the ground can cause problems.

Rest is the key element to recovery from a stress fracture.

Description

A stress fracture is an overuse injury. When muscles are overtired, they are no longer able to lessen the shock of repeated impacts. When this happens, the muscles transfer the stress to the bones. This can create small cracks or fractures.

The most common sites of stress fractures are the second and third metatarsals of the foot. Stress fractures are also common in the heel (calcaneus), the outer bone of the lower leg (fibula), and the navicular, a bone on the top of the midfoot.

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Cause

Stress fractures usually occur when you increase your high-impact activity by:

  • Frequency (how often you exercise)
  • Duration (how long you exercise)
  • Intensity (your level of exertion)

People who do not exercise can also have stress fractures. If osteoporosis or other disease has weakened bones, normal daily activities may result in a stress fracture. This is called bone insufficiency. It is one of many factors that can increase your risk for stress fracture.