Stress fractures affect many people of all ages, but they are particularly prevalent in young athletes who are not fully grown and lack the proper training to participate in a competitive sport. Even professional athletes get stress fractures, though, so no one is immune to these painful occurrences.
Stress fractures are basically small cracks in a bone. They’re caused by repetitive force, usually from overuse due to repeatedly jumping up and down or running over long distances. They occur most often in the weight-bearing bones of the lower foot and leg. Young athletes who engage in high-impact sports such as track and field, tennis, basketball, and gymnastics are at the highest risk.
Why do so many young athletes develop stress fractures?
Training too hard without proper conditioning will boost an athlete’s risk of getting a stress fracture. That’s because when the athlete’s muscles become too tired and can’t readily absorb the impact of competition and training, that stress gets transferred to the bones.
Athletes who have flat feet are more prone to such fractures, as are those who:
- Run on hard surfaces
- Run with improper footwear
- Suffer from eating disorders
- Suffer from low bone mineral density or osteoporosis
The PARS Stress Fracture
Also known as spondylolysis, the PARS stress fracture usually occurs in the lower back, resulting from repetitive hyperextension and rotation activities, says American Bone Health. Young athletes who participate in sports involving twisting movements and backwards bending are at a higher risk of a PARS stress fracture, which affects 30 percent of young athletes. Sports where hyperextension of the back are routine occurrences include gymnastics, diving, wrestling, football, pole vaulting, weight lifting, dancing, volleyball, and high jumping.
Young athletes with stress fractures may have to wear a walking boot or brace, or use crutches until the bone heals. This will help reduce the bone’s weight-bearing load. Surgery is an option for extreme cases, but there are many non-surgical treatment options that may be a better fit for a young person.
In most cases, lifestyle changes can go a long way toward alleviating the pain of stress fractures.
- Get plenty of rest. Do not use the affected limb until your doctor clears you.
- Ice the area. Apply ice packs to the injury for 15 minutes every few hours. This will reduce swelling and relieve pain.
- Resume activity slowly. Don’t jump back into sports; instead slowly start off with non-weight-bearing activities, such as swimming, before progressing to your usual activities.
Contact Summit Spine and Joint Centers
To learn how our pain management clinic can help relieve a stress fracture or any other acute or chronic pain, call us today at 770-962-3642 and make an appointment to visit one our 22 pain centers including our featured location in August for Pain Management in Gainesville, GA. We utilize state-of-the-art, minimally-invasive techniques to restore function and improve your overall quality of life.