Sports Rehabilitation and Stress Fractures


Sports Rehabilitation and stress fractures are common to athletes participating in high impact sports such as track, tennis, basketball, gymnastics and dance.

A stress or hairline fracture is a small crack usually in a weight bearing bone (foot, heel, distal fibula) that develops over time from overuse.

diagram stress FxBio-mechanically when the muscles in the lower leg are fatigued they can no longer absorb the repeated impacts of the foot striking the ground or hard surface. This results in the force transferred to the weight bearing bones. In this article we will give you an overview of sports rehabilitation and stress fractures related to the foot and ankle.

Causes of Stress Fractures

Athletes who increase the demand on the weight bearing bones with increased levels of activity in a short period of time are prone to these fractures. Another factor in the cause of a stress fracture is related to any dietary abnormality such as anorexia where there is a deficiency of calcium and vitamin D. Calcium and vitamin D are extremely important for bone health.  Teenage female athletes are at high risk for these fractures when there are problems with menstruation.

dancersAthletes with low levels of conditioning are prone to early fatigue of muscles thus increased weight bearing stress on bones. Any person new to exercising and trying too much quickly is at risk. Osteoporosis which causes weakening of bone is a high risk in developing these hairline fractures. Worn out foot wear, change of surfaces and anything altering foot impact ( blister, tendonitis etc.) will contribute to the development of stress fractures. While in a sports rehabilitation program the athlete is educated in all factors causing these fractures.

Signs of Stress Fractures

The common sign of a stress fracture is localized pain with activity and then subsides with rest. The area will become swollen, tender, sensitive and sometimes discolored. Gait deviation is evident in the form of a limp because stress fractures usually affect weight bearing joints.

Sports Rehabilitation for Stress Fractures

bootIn most cases a rest period from one to six weeks is recommended of limited weight bearing. During this time the athlete will utilize axillary crutches, brace or walking boot. Sports rehabilitation will consist of the use of electrical stimulation to reduce swelling and cold laser to promote healing.

Low impact activity such as stationary bike and swimming should be started and progressed once the acute pain subsides. Higher impact activity with weight bearing such as elliptical, stepper or treadmill is the normal progression.

When the athlete can perform high impact exercises pain free for a prolonged period  getting back to his normal activity should be gradual. Upon discharge from the sports rehabilitation program the sports therapist will outline a home program.


foot T bandTo prevent this type of fracture learn these simple guidelines (1) healthy diet to promote healthy bones (2) proper foot wear making sure old or worn sneakers are not used (3) always start any new activity slowly gradually increasing speed, distance and time (4) continue a strengthening program to avoid early fatigue of muscles and (5) stop activity that causes a return of pain.

The absolute guideline to follow if pain persists is always contact you physician or sports rehabilitation specialist to avoid further complications!