Maybe it’s me. Maybe I’m hyper-aware or I know more runners who are tackling the great distance of a marathon, but man oh man, I’ve never known SO many runners with stress fractures.
I don’t know what the hay-ho is going on out there (I have a guess but I’m not sure people would like my educated guess…) but I’ve never known so many runners who are sidelined with stress fractures.
Let’s be clear about what stress fractures are and why they happen.
Stress fractures are incomplete, often hairline, fractures that occur commonly in the femur, tibia, or any of the bones of the foot. Stress fractures happen over a prolonged period of time due to excessive repetitive stress placed on the body.
They do not, DO NOT, happen overnight.
Reasons why stress fractures happen:
- Overtraining. Too many miles. Too many weeks of training. Too too much.
- Undertraining/improper training. Think only doing 3-5 miles 2x/week and then blasting out massive long runs on the weekend.
- Diet. Lack of nutrients (like in exercise anorexia or compulsive exercise disorder) make your bones brittle and go *snap*.
- Improper footwear. Think Vibram (my least favorite).
- Bad body mechanics. Imbalances in the body get amplified in repetitive sports.
And guess what? Every single one of these is preventable.
Every. Single. One.
- Hire an educated, experienced coach (ahem, more than a weekend course).
- Do not start your training 16 weeks before the race. Training begins in the off season with strength training and speed workouts.
- If your diet stinks or you think you might be at risk for developing the Female Athlete Triad, seek the guidance of a Registered Dietician or a Licensed Nutritionist.
- Please, please, please get your body mechanics checked by a physical therapist. We are trained to do this and more outpatient orthopedic facilities (like Finish Line PT) are starting pre-hab programs to do just this for athletes.
- PTs can also evaluate your feet, knees, and hips for which shoe would be best for you. Seriously.
If you think you might be developing a stress fracture, get to your orthopedist for some imaging immediately. An incomplete fracture (stress fracture) can lead to a complete fracture and surgery with one run.
That’s right. You’ve been ignoring that nagging pain and one day it just goes bananas.
Pain in the same spot that doesn’t let up and hurts every time you run, walk, put pressure on it is a glaring sign that something is wrong. Guys, if it hurts, don’t do it.
If you’re sidelined from your race this year because of a stress fracture, I’m really sorry. But there’s hope! Treatments are amazing, PTs make it their job to fix runners like you, and you can be back on the road in a few weeks/months.
Be smart. Hire someone smarter. Work hard.
Now go out and run.