Stress Fractures and the Athlete
Athletes of most any sport can become injured regardless if they are playing for recreation or professionally. One of the most common sports injuries to occur in athletes is stress fractures. If not treated immediately, these seemingly insignificant injuries can result in more severe problems that will knock an athlete out of their game for a long time.
Stress Fracture Explained
When a stress fracture occurs, the bone is not actually cracked as is the case with a regular bone fracture. A stress fracture is the result of the bone becoming weaker than can be supported under the pressure of the sport which you are playing.
Over time, bone can become thin and brittle. This is especially true of athletes who put a constant amount of stress on their bones, but do not consume sufficient amounts of nutrients and calcium, and who do not warm up and stretch properly before tackling their sport. Lower extremity stress fractures are particularly common in sports where athletes spend a great deal of time running hard, such as in soccer or long distance running.
Stress Fracture Symptoms
The first sign of a stress fracture is the presence of pain. It often starts out as a dull pain and then gradually increases over time until the pain is constant. You might experience some pain during a game, but then the pain increases while resting at night and becomes more severe by the next morning. Because the pain is minimal at first, many athletes chose to ignore it.
The pain associated with stress fracture injuries is often described as a burning sensation or a deep pain. This is due to it being a bone fracture which radiates a different pain than a muscle injury. Sometimes, inflammation is present around the injured area, especially when it occurs in the foot or hand where the bone is not covered by much flesh.
Stress Fracture Treatment
If not treated immediately, stress fractures can progress into full fractures or even breakage. Therefore, if you experience any of the symptoms of a stress fracture, you should have that area looked at as soon as possible.
Once diagnosed, the only way an affected athlete can recover is through rest. These fractures are due to the weakening of the bone and therefore require adequate time to repair. The required amount of injury recovery time is approximately 6 weeks and, although this is often discouraging to athletes, it is far less than having to heal a broken bone. Most of the time, athletes with stress fractures in the foot are fitted with walking boots or soft casts which take the pressure off of the affected area until they heal.
After the recovery period, there is an easing back into the sport. Participation times usually start at 10 minute intervals with the playing time slowly increased over the course of a couple of weeks. Also, certain pain and anti-inflammatory medications and steroids are administered to assist with the pain of stress fractures.
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