Symptoms of a Stress Fracture Include:

  • Pain (usually on the lower third of the tibia) that occurs after running long distances.
  • Tenderness and swelling over the site of the fracture.
  • Pain when you press into the shin. An X ray of the injured leg will often not show any sign of a fracture. Another X ray must be taken 4 weeks after the first and often the new bone can be seen where it has started to heal.

Tibia Stress Fracture Explained

The two bones of the lower leg are called the tibia and fibula. The tibia is the larger of the two and its role is load bearing. The fibula is the smaller of the two and its role is mainly for muscle attachment. Either of these bones can have stress fractures. The most common site however is two to three inches above the bony bit on the inside of the ankle (medial malleolus) on the tibia bone.

Causes include:

  • Overloading the bone by continuous muscle contractions for example in running.
  • Stress distribution in the bone altered because of continuing to run when the muscles are particularly fatigued. (Muscles are unable to take some of the stress so rely more on the bone).
  • A sudden change in running surface for example going from grass training to lots of track or road running.
  • Lots of small impacts on the bone even though they may be very small, a cumulative effect can build up.
  • Rest for around eight weeks.
  • See a doctor to have an X-ray. The X-ray should eventually show the healing bone and the doctor can then say when it is safe to resume normal training.
  • Analyse the training that caused the fracture in the first place and avoid it in the future.
  • Maintain fitness by swimming, running in the water or weight training.
  • Do special exercises for the lower leg to maintain muscle strength whilst unable to run.
  • X-ray the leg and advise on when it is safe to resume training.

Treatment

What can the athlete do about a stress fracture?

  • Rest for around eight weeks.
  • See a doctor to have an X-ray. The X-ray should eventually show the healing bone and the doctor can then say when it is safe to resume normal training.
  • Analyse the training that caused the fracture in the first place and avoid it in the future.
  • Maintain fitness by swimming, running in the water or weight training.
  • Do special exercises for the lower leg to maintain muscle strength whilst unable to run.
  • X-ray the leg and advise on when it is safe to resume training.

What can a sports injury specialist or doctor do?

  • X-ray the leg and advise on when it is safe to resume training.