Your son didn’t want to sit out the big game, but his coach wasn’t going to let him play while he was limping. He was told to rest up, and to stay off his “bad” ankle…but a week later, the pain hasn’t gotten any better. You know he’s eager to get back on the field, but he has to be careful while waiting for his sprained ankle to heal. Is there anything you can do to help speed his recovery?

Is It a Sprain, or Is It a Stress Fracture?

Many college athletes who twist or fall on their ankles during game play will suffer an ankle sprain. However, what many patients don’t realize is that sprains often occur hand-in-hand with stress fractures, tiny breaks in the bones of the feet caused by repetitive stress. Pain in the ankle is a common symptom in both conditions, so athletes may assume they have suffered a sprain, and do not know that they have suffered a broken bone until weeks after the injury occurs.

Runners, football players, and other athletes are most likely to suffer stress fractures in their:

  • Toes. The bones in the toes are relatively fragile, and cannot support the full weight of the body on their own. Dancers and other athletes who repeatedly raise themselves onto their toes may suffer stress fractures in the big toe, which may require splinting to allow the bone to heal straight.

  • Metatarsals. Fractures are most common in the second and third metatarsals of the foot, located just below the toes. Athletes who regularly run and jump on hard surfaces, including basketball players and track runners, may suffer metatarsal fractures due to repeated hard landings.

  • Mid-foot. Just under the metatarsal bones are the larger bones of the mid-foot, which are prone to breakage due to any increase in weight-bearing activities. Weight lifting and cheerleading can cause fractures in the navicular, the bone at the top of the arch of the foot. Football players will commonly suffer Lisfranc fractures, breakages in the smaller bones in the middle of the foot.

  • Ankle. While ligaments and tendons in the ankle are often injured in a sprain, the bones that form the ankle joint can also break, lengthening recovery time for the injury. If the ankle bones have been fractured, patients may need complete immobility followed by physical therapy, and may still experience lost range of motion or arthritis in the joint for years to come.

  • Heel. Hard landings—common in gymnastics and dance routines—can also cause stress fractures in the heel bone, or calcaneus. Calcaneal fractures may heal on their own or may require surgery, but in both cases patients may suffer arthritis and stiffness in the heel even after the bone has been repaired.

Early Diagnosis Is Key to Your Recovery

If you or someone you love has suffered trauma to the foot or ankle, it is vital to have x-ray imaging as soon as possible. At Podiatry Care Specialists, PC, we can perform a wide range of diagnostic techniques to find the location of your stress fracture, allowing us to start you on the right course of treatment immediately. We perform regular follow-up care to make sure your injury is healing properly, and can stabilize the ankle joint to ease your pain and make sure you keep as much mobility as possible. Call us or use our convenient online request form to schedule an appointment with us today!