Published online Mar 18, 2017. doi: 10.5312/wjo.v8.i3.242
Peer-review started: September 1, 2016
First decision: September 29, 2016
Revised: November 24, 2016
Accepted: December 16, 2016
Article in press: December 18, 2016
Published online: March 18, 2017
Stress fractures in sport are becoming increasing more common, comprising up to 10% of all of sporting injuries. Around 90% of such injuries are located in the lower limb. This articles aims to define the optimal management of lower limb stress fractures in the athlete, with a view to maximise return rates and minimise return times to sport. Treatment planning of this condition is specific to the location of the injury. However, there remains a clear division of stress fractures by “high” and “low” risk. “Low risk” stress fractures are those with a low probability of fracture propagation, delayed union, or non-union, and so can be managed reliably with rest and exercise limitation. These include stress fractures of the Postero-Medial Tibial Diaphysis, Metatarsal Shafts, Distal Fibula, Medial Femoral Neck, Femoral Shaft and Calcaneus. “High risk” stress fractures, in contrast, have increased rates of fracture propagation, displacement, delayed and non-union, and so require immediate cessation of activity, with orthopaedic referral, to assess the need for surgical intervention. These include stress fractures of the Anterior Tibial Diaphysis, Fifth Metatarsal Base, Medial Malleolus, Lateral Femoral Neck, Tarsal Navicular and Great Toe Sesamoids. In order to establish the optimal methods for managing these injuries, we present and review the current evidence which guides the treatment of stress fractures in athletes. From this, we note an increased role for surgical management of certain high risk stress fractures to improve return times and rates to sport. Following this, key recommendations are provided for the management of the common stress fracture types seen in the athlete. Five case reports are also presented to illustrate the application of sport-focussed lower limb stress fracture treatment in the clinical setting.
Core tip: This editorial article offers a current perspective on the treatment of lower limb stress fractures in the athlete. The authors focus on the most common “high risk” (Anterior Tibial Diaphysis, Fifth Metatarsal Base, Medial Malleolus, Lateral Femoral Neck, Tarsal Navicular, Great Toe Sesamoid) and “low risk” stress fractures (Postero-Medial Tibial Diaphysis, Metatarsal Shafts, Distal Fibula, Medial Femoral Neck, Femoral Shaft, Calcaneus), highlighting the optimal treatment methods for each, and assessing the most recent evidence which directs this. The value of preventative interventions is also discussed. Finally, five case reports are presented to demonstrate the evidence-based treatment process in clinical practice.