stress fracturesAlthough sports participation provides many physical and social benefits for students, it also has a downside: the risk of sports-related injuries. There are many types of injuries that plague athletes, some preventable and most extremely treatable. Among the most common of these are stress fractures.

A fracture, often referred to as a broken bone, is a very common injury. It is classified as any loss of bone continuity and occurs when more pressure is applied than a bone can withstand. The most prevalent type of fracture in young athletes is known as a stress or hairline fracture.

A stress fracture is considered an overuse injury, which means it occurs when muscles tire from repetitive motion, resulting in a shift of pressure to the bones. Over time, the constant exposure of added pressure on a bone will result in a fracture or crack. Symptoms of stress fractures include pain, tenderness and swelling of the affected area. Doctors use physical exams, X-rays and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to diagnose stress fractures.

Stress fractures, though quite common, are very preventable. Here are some key points for your athlete keep in mind when training or participating in sports:

*Do not take on too much, too fast. Give your body a chance to slowly adapt to new activities and gradually build up your stamina and strength.
*Consume a well-balanced diet. Make sure you are fueling your body with everything it needs to perform, including calcium and Vitamin-D to ensure strong bones.
*Listen to your body. If you experience pain or swelling, you should rest, treat your symptoms and see a medical professional.
*Practice proper technique and use proper equipment. Something as simple as wearing worn out shoes while running can contribute or cause injury, so be sure you are outfitted properly to protect against injury.
*Alternating your activities can help prevent injuries. For example, try swimming or biking as an alternative to running to improve cardiovascular endurance.

Young athletes face more pressure to perform than ever before. They dedicate more time to training and are expected to be better, faster and stronger. While participation in sports provides many benefits, it is important to remember there are also risks. Empowering young athletes with the knowledge required to train hard in a healthy way will allow for a successful, injury-free athletic career.

For more information about sports-related injuries or to learn more about staying healthy while training, contact Hampton Roads Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine at (757) 873-1554 for a consultation with one of our Sports Medicine specialists.