This is the time of year when local runners are ramping up their training for the marathon or gearing up for high school cross country. It is also the time of year when many runners come to our clinic with shin splints. Many of these athletes are female runners, however, to a lesser degree soccer and football players, cheerleaders and dancers can get them too. Unfortunately, in many of these athletes, this problem can lead to a much more severe and advanced problem with shin splints called a stress fracture. Some very good athletes have been hindered by this problem. Some of the questions they and other patients have had regarding this problem are:
A stress fracture is fatigue damage to bone with partial or complete disruption of the cortex of the bone from repetitive loading. While standard x-rays may not reveal the problem, a bone scan, and MRI will. It usually occurs in the long bones of the leg, mostly the tibia but also the femur (thigh) and foot. Occasionally, it occurs in the arm.
10-21% of all competitive athletes are at risk for stress fractures. Track, cross country and military recruits are at greatest risk. Females are twice as likely as males to have a stress fracture. Other athletes at risk are: sprinters, soccer and basketball players, jumpers, ballet dancers are at risk in the leg and foot. Gymnasts are also vulnerable in the spine while rowers, baseball pitchers, golfers and tennis players can experience the fracture with much less frequency in the ribs & arm.
The problem is much more prevalent in weight bearing repetitive, loading sports in which leanness is emphasized (ballet, cheerleading) or provides an advantage (distance running, gymnastics).
Stress fractures usually begin with a manageable, poorly localized pain with or immediately after activity such as a shin splint. Over time, pain becomes more localized and tender during activity and then progresses to pain with daily activity and at rest.
Visit your doctor regularly and listen to your body.
NEXT MONDAY – Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum” in the Scranton Times-Tribune.
This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email:email@example.com
Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at The Commonwealth Medical College.