Stress fractures are common injuries in athletes, often difficult to diagnose. A stress fracture is a fatigue-induced fracture of bone caused by repeated applications of stress over time.

PubMed articles published from 1974 to January 2012.

Intrinsic and extrinsic factors may predict the risk of stress fractures in athletes, including bone health, training, nutrition, and biomechanical factors. Based on their location, stress fractures may be categorized as low- or high-risk, depending on the likelihood of the injury developing into a complete fracture. Treatment for these injuries varies substantially and must account for the risk level of the fractured bone, the stage of fracture development, and the needs of the patient. High-risk fractures include the anterior tibia, lateral femoral neck, patella, medial malleolus, and femoral head. Low-risk fractures include the posteromedial tibia, fibula, medial femoral shaft, and pelvis. Magnetic resonance is the imaging test of choice for diagnosis.

These injuries can lead to substantial lost time from participation. Treatment will vary by fracture location, but most stress fractures will heal with rest and modified weightbearing. Some may require more aggressive intervention, such as prolonged nonweightbearing movement or surgery. Contributing factors should also be addressed prior to return to sports.

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