foot and ankle injuries

Preventing And Treating Stress Fractures In Young Athletes

Stress fractures can affect athletes of all ages, but they tend to be more common in young athletes who put too much strain on their feet in a short period of time. This overstress injury can be difficult to treat because it typically requires rest and a gradual reintroduction to athletics, and many youth athletes rush back to their sport for one reason or another, causing the condition to linger or return. In today’s blog, we take a closer look at why stress fractures develop in young athletes, and how Dr. McDonald and his team can help you overcome these injuries.

Causes Of Stress Fractures In Young Athletes

We touched on the underlying cause of stress fractures in the introduction, but there are a number of different ways that your feet can be overstressed during athletics or exercise. A number of factors that can contribute to a stress fracture in the foot include:

  • Too Much Activity Without Rest – If your child plays sports year round, or their sport schedule is jam-packed with games and practices, they may be putting too much stress on their feet, gradually increasing their risk of a stress fracture.
  • Single Sport Specialization – Now more than ever we are seeing a culture shift where parents are pushing their children to specialize in one sport at an earlier age. This can lead to the same type of stress patterns being placed on the foot year round, increasing the child’s risk of a stress fracture.
  • Sudden Changes To Activity Patterns – Youth athletes who face a sudden increase in activity may also be at risk of a stress fracture. If you go from limited activity to two-a-day practices, or an injury to another player greatly increases your playing time, your stress fracture risk may increase.
  • Poor Footwear – Your feet need to be adequately supported during athletic activity. If they aren’t, normal forces can end up overstressing your feet, leading to a fracture. Make sure that your athletic shoes are comfortable and supportive to help take some stress off your feet.
  • High Impact Activities – Finally, athletes that partake in high impact activities, especially sports that take place on hard surfaces, are at risk for stress fracture development. Gymnastics, basketball, track and tennis are sports that have higher rates of foot stress fractures than others.

A stress fracture occurs when the muscles in the foot are overworked and unable to handle the stress being placed on the foot. This forces the bones in the area to help handle this stress, and over time this repeated pressure can cause tiny cracks to develop in the bone. These small stress fractures can lead to discomfort with every step, but fortunately they tend to heal well with conservative care.

If you’re dealing with a stress fracture in your foot, one of the first things you’ll want to do is significantly decrease the amount of stress you put on your feet. You’ll want to take a short break from athletics or other strenuous activities to allow the inflammation and stress fractures to begin to resolve. Many athletes will start to feel better after 1-2 weeks of rest and limited activity, but it can take up to 6-8 weeks for your stress fracture to fully heal.

While rest is the most important treatment factor, it’s also imperative that you are smart about how you return to athletic activities. Jumping right back into athletic activities at the same intensity as before is a recipe for reinjury, so you need to be gradual and deliberate in your return to sport preparations. Start slow and gradually increase the amount of stress you put on your feet, paying attention to how your feet feel during and after activity. By slowly building up the amount of stress you put on your feet and being cognizant of your activity levels after your recovery, you can overcome a foot stress fracture and prevent their return.

If your child is dealing with pain or discomfort in their feet after athletic activity, or you want to talk with a foot specialist about a foot issue you’re experiencing, reach out to Dr. McDonald and his team today at (860) 244-8889.

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