Conditions + Treatments

Stress Fractures

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"We advise kids not to specialize in just one sport. Multi-sport athletes tend not to get as many stress fractures and other kinds of overuse injuries. And for practicing, we advise kids and coaches to alternate exercises and vary drills. In the long term, your muscle memory is better if you change up your practice exercises."

          -Orthopedic Team, Boston Children's Hospital, Orthopedic Center

If your teen or child has been diagnosed with a stress fracture, we at Children’s Hospital Boston know that she’s experiencing discomfort, as well as some disappointment that her sports training has been disrupted. We’ll approach your child’s treatment with sensitivity and support—to get her back into sports safely.

What is a stress fracture?

With more and more kids playing organized sports and specializing early, there’s been a rise in the number of overuse injuries among children and teens. As a common overuse injury, stress fractures occur largely among runners and other athletes whose sports involve high-impact contact of the foot with the ground or floor—say, basketball and tennis players, track and field athletes, gymnasts, runners and dancers. At Children’s, our patients with stress fractures are usually teenagers or post-adolescents, since this is the age group that’s most likely to run and train competitively.

•   Stress fractures and other overuse injuries are sports-related microtraumas (small injuries) that result from
    repetitively using the same parts of the body.
•   A stress fracture results when fatigued muscles can’t absorb the shock (stress) of impact and transfer the
    stress load to a bone.
•   Most stress fractures occur in the weight-bearing bones of the foot or lower leg; over half occur in the lower
    leg—but can also occur to the hip (femoral neck).
•   Signs and symptoms of stress fractures—pain and inflammation—can resemble those of shin splints—so a proper diagnosis is important.
•   The risk of stress fractures increases if a runner:
       -    has flat feet (fallen arches), which unevenly distribute the stress from impact
       -    trains too hard before being properly conditioned

How can stress fractures be prevented?

•   proper conditioning and training (especially cross-training)
•   sport-appropriate equipment and protective gear
•   adequate rest between exercise sessions
•   a calcium- and vitamin D-rich diet (especially for teenage girls)
        -   While boys and girls are equally vulnerable to stress fractures, adolescent female athletes experience these more
            often than boys

Boston Children's approach to stress fractures and overuse injuries

You can have peace of mind knowing that the skilled team of experts in Boston Children’s Orthopedic Center has treated thousands of children, adolescents, adults and professional athletes with injuries ranging from the minor to the highly complex. We can provide your child with expert diagnosis, treatment and care—as well as the benefits of some of the most advanced clinical and scientific research in the world.

The Sports Medicine Division at Boston Children's has provided care to thousands of young athletes and is the health care choice of professional athletes and world-renowned dancers. We are the official orthopedic caregivers for the internationally famous Boston Marathon and the renowned Boston Ballet.


The future of pediatrics will be forged by thinking differently, breaking paradigms and joining together in a shared vision of tackling the toughest challenges before us.”
- Sandra L. Fenwick, President and CEO

Boston Children's Hospital 300 Longwood Avenue, Boston, MA 02115 617-355-6000 | 800-355-7944