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The Danger of Stress Fractures to Young Athletes

May 21, 2011

As the competition and talent rises in the sports young athletes play, so do the injuries. One such injury is the stress fracture.

In the world of sports medicine, a stress fracture is the condition where the bone starts to break down. Unlike a break or fracture, the bone, under constant stress, begins to splinter with tiny cracks.

Think shin splints.

Shin splints–an inflammation and pain on the inner side of the shin–occur when you raise the intensity of your workout too fast, wear worn-out shoes or run and jump on hard packed surfaces like concrete.

Unfortunately, many athletes blow off the early signs of stress fractures like shin splints. Either they themselves or their coaches believe it’s best to just work through the pain.

That can cause major problems.

Long-Term Impact of Stress Fractures
A stress fracture, which normally occurs in the lower limbs, is an injury that causes blood to stop flowing through the injured area. Usually, resting for a week or two when symptoms appear, can do the trick to healing the your injury.

But if the pain remains even though you’ve eased back into the activity and changed your shoes to absorb more of the shock, then it’s best that you see a doctor. You may need to seek other treatments or simply rest for a longer period of time.

How long should you rest? A stress fracture can take up to two to six months to heal. Sometimes it’s appropriate to use a bone stimulator during that time to speed healing. That bone stimulator will cause blood to flow through the injured area. Talk to your doctor about this type of treatment.

However, if you ignore a stress fracture and try to work through the pain, your sports-related injury will only get worse and you could end up with an injury that will never heal.

Why More Stress Factors in Girls than Boys?
The simple answer is that girls do not have the bone density that boys do. And when they engage in sports that involve repeated activity like soccer or track, that constant trauma causes the bone to fracture.

How Do You Prevent Stress Fractures?
If you want to prevent stress fractures, simply be smart about how you train and exercise. Follow these tips:

  • Ease into any new sport training workout. Never run 6 miles on your first try or play 2 hours of basketball if you’re not in shape.
  • Cross train. Choose low-impact activities like swimming or cycling. You’ll continue to get the cardio workout without the stress to your bones.
  • Buy the right shoes for your sport. Make sure they provide plenty of support and absorption for shock. Talk to a shoe specialist for advice. Consider shock-absorbing inserts for additional protection.


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