If you are someone who has a low BMI, the chances of you developing stress fractures after a strenuous workout are high! A recent study by Ohio State University revealed low BMI athletes, especially women, suffering from stress fractures took a very long time to heal. Dr T. Chiranjeevi, senior orthopaedic and joint replacement surgeon, explains the causes, symptoms and reasons of stress fractures in young athletes and runners
Runners and athletes are counselled by their coach to report when they are in pain. Despite that, how have stress fractures become so common?
Stress fractures are often the result of increasing the amount or intensity of an activity too rapidly. They also can be caused by the impact of an unfamiliar surface. For instance, it may happen to a tennis player who has switched surfaces from a soft clay court to a hard court. Improper equipment, like a runner using worn or less flexible shoes, may lead to such fractures.
Another factor is increased physical stress like a badminton player who has had a substantial increase in playing time. When excessive sports or excessive activity occurs and the person is not used to it, stress fractures can occur.
Sportsmen have various levels and the intensity is increased accordingly. Sometimes, people push themselves to prove they too can do it, but their body does not support them.
Who are the people who suffer from this problem?
Stress fractures have been seen in walkers and runners as well as sportsmen playing tennis, badminton, basketball, and gymnastics. In walkers and runners, the footwear is often the cause. In others, we have found the repetitive stress of the foot striking the ground causing trauma. The body has to be given enough rest between workouts and also competitions. When this norm is not followed, the risk of stress fractures increases.
To prevent stress fractures, the intensity of the person’s training must be properly evaluated by the coach. When they do that, they are safeguarding the individual from injury and further damage to the bone. A sudden increase in intensity is bad for bone health.
What are the precautions that those at risk must follow?
When participating in any new sports activity, set incremental goals. For example, do not immediately set out to run five kilometres a day; instead, gradually build up on a weekly basis. Alternating activities that accomplish the same fitness goals can help prevent injuries like stress fractures. Instead of running every day to meet cardiovascular goals, run on even days and bike on odd days. Add some strength training and flexibility exercises to this mix to benefit the body.
What foods help in curtailing the damage of stress fractures?
Those doing strenuous exercise must maintain a healthy diet. The use of multi-vitamins, calcium and vitamin D3 helps in treating stress fracture. The most important treatment is rest and avoiding such activities for a while till it heals.
Which age group suffers from it the most?
Stress fractures affect people of all ages who participate in repetitive sporting activities like running. Studies have shown that female athletes seem to experience more stress fractures than their male counterparts. This is because their bone mass decreases due to the hormonal changes.
What is a stress fracture?
Stress fracture is a fracture caused in the bone due to overuse. When the muscle becomes tired and cannot absorb the load, it transfers it to the bone, leading to a stress fracture. The added shock to the bone causes such fractures.
Signs of a stress fracture: Increased swelling and pain that is unbearable.
Ways to prevent stress fracture
Do not start high-intensity exercises or running without being trained from the lower levels for the same.
If, during jumping or running, there is pain in the lower limbs, immediately inform the coach. He/she will get it evaluated medically.
Cross-training is important as it helps to maintain fitness levels. Those who are above 40 years of age and opting for running, with no history of fitness, must first go in for strength training and flexibility exercises.
Maintain a healthy diet.
In case of pain or swelling, do not carry out any fitness activity or sports and opt for complete rest till it subsides.