What is Stress Fracture?

What is Stress Fracture?

One of the most common injury risks among sportspersons is the stress fracture. This is because of the very nature of some sports where the sportsperson is required to perform fixed actions for prolonged durations through their entire career. This makes it imperative for them to understand the injury and make use of prevention methods to keep them at bay.

What is a stress fracture?


A stress fracture is when any bone in your body develops small fracture cracks because of repetitive force. This can also be described as deep bone bruise. A stress fracture takes place when a stress reaction is left untreated.

Jumping and running— common activities in most sports— would require repetitive force being applied on specific body parts, for instance. As a result of this, the changes of stress fracture become quite high in people performing these activities on a regular basis. In that sense, it covers nearly all sportspersons.  Stress fracture can, however, also be caused if your bones are generally weak due to your overall fragile state of health.

Risk factors

While anyone can suffer stress fracture, athletes face a much higher possibility of developing stress fracture. The risk factors are also determined by:

Age: The higher the age, the more the risk


Sex: More common in women than men, especially among women with menstrual cycle issues.


Weight: Underweight and overweight people both are at higher risk.


Medical condition: People with Osteoporosis are at higher risk.


Profession: Military recruits, athletes and runners are at higher risk. (In fact, stress fractures were first reported in military personnel as march foot in the mid-19th century)

You are also running the risk of developing stress fracture if:

  • Run more than 25 miles a week
  • Have osteoporosis
  • Have eating disorders
  • Have low levels of Vitamin D
  • Have more over 10 alcoholic drinks a week
  • Smoke

Someone who has just started a new exercise or a sportsperson who abruptly stepped up the intensity of his workout is also at a higher risk of developing stress fractures.


Which bones are most susceptible?


Weight-bearing bones of the lower leg and foot face the highest risk of suffering a stress fracture. In fact, 20% to 75% of all stress fractures, which are often running injuries, affect the shin bone or tibia. Stress fracture is common among long-distance runners, basketball & tennis players, gymnastics and dancers. Stress fracture can also occur in the shin bone, foot, heel, hip and lower back.

Low-risk stress fracture areas

  • Posterior tibia
  • 2nd to 4th metatarsals
  • Femur
  • Inferior and superior pubic rami
  • Sacrum
  • Fibula

High-risk stress fracture areas

  • Femoral neck
  • Anterior tibia
  • Tarsal navicular
  • Talus
  • Sesamoid bones
  • 1st and 5th metatarsal bones

Stress fracture symptoms

  • Pain
  • Pain worsens with walking, standing, and exercising
  • Swelling
  • Tenderness


Even though stress fracture causes a significantly high level of pain, it would cure themselves for as long as the impact is low. While low-risk stress fractures can be treated by stopping the stress-causing activity and resting for 2 to 6 weeks, high-risk stress fractures require medical intervention. In extreme cases, surgery may also be recommended.