Updated: Aug 13, 2018
Throughout my running career (thus far), I have sustained 4 metatarsal stress fractures and 1 ankle fracture. Though a fracture can set an athlete back a bit if one is in the middle of training for a race, it is more important to allow it to heal properly before returning to activity than it is to push through it and end up delaying the healing process, or even worse, injuring something else.
WHY DO FRACTURES HAPPEN?
A fracture, or a break, in the bone typically results from one of two scenarios. Either a traumatic experience occurs (i.e. fall from height), causing the break, or repetitive microtrauma to weakened bone results in a fracture.
TYPES OF FRACTURES
You may hear several terms thrown around when someone is talking about broken bones, and that is because there are many different types of fractures, which can be categorized in a number of ways.
By number of bony fragments:
A single fracture results into two bony fragments, while comminuted fractures refer to breaks in which there are three or more fractured pieces.
Whether or not the injury/fracture results in a break in the skin:
When the skin around the break remains intact, it is called a closed fracture. When there is a break in the skin associated with the fracture, it is considered an open fracture and requires a specific treatment protocol, including washing of the wound, stabilizing and/or fixing the fracture, and a course of antibiotics.
How far apart the fractured pieces are to one another:
Lastly, when the fractured pieces have not shifted or moved, it is a nondisplaced fracture. When there is significant movement (>2mm) between the fracture fragments, it is considered a displaced fracture.
Treatment of fractures is often based on the type of fracture, whether or not it is displaced, and the location (toe bones vs foot bones vs ankle). Your treatment protocol should be discussed with your physician before starting one on your own.
Immobilization and/or restriction of weight-bearing status – Toe fractures can usually be treated with a surgical shoe and weight can be put on the foot. The injured toe is often buddy taped to the adjacent toe to help stabilize it. When more proximal foot fractures occur, a walking boot or cast is typically recommended and weight-bearing status varies from full weight-bearing to full non weight-bearing.
Just because your limb is immobilized, though, it does not mean you cannot work out! Upper body workouts are still possible, and if you haven't read my blog on the AlterG treadmill, it's worth checking it out the machine!
Ice – This is most helpful immediately after the injury to aid with the associated swelling, heat, and pain.
Anti-inflammatory medications – Like ice, anti-inflammatories are most beneficial within the first 2-3 days after an injury.
Surgery – Surgery is most often performed for displaced fractures to restore anatomic alignment.
Shoe gear – It is important to wear supportive shoes with adequate cushion as much as possible, including inside the home.
Cross-train –Consider breaking up your running routine, or other higher impact activities, with lower impact activities, such as swimming or biking.
Bone density – Knowing your bone density and supplementing with Vitamin D as directed by your physician can help prevent fractures, as well as improve your chances for a better recovery.
DISCLAIMER: The above information is meant for educational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. Should you have questions or concerns related to your health, please contact the doctor or your own healthcare professional.