What Causes Stress Fractures in Children?

You’re probably familiar with stress fractures in adults, but did you know that stress fractures can occur in children? If you have an active child, and especially if he plays sports, it’s possible that he could develop a stress fracture. 

The world of youth sports can begin as early as age 7, and with sports like soccer, children often begin by age 5. Our board-certified orthopedic and musculoskeletal specialist physicians at Urgently Ortho in Scottsdale, Arizona, treat many pediatric patients with stress fractures. Pediatric injuries from organized sports are the second most common reason for visits to an emergency care facility in the U.S. today.  

What causes stress fractures in children? 

Stress fractures most often happen in the lower leg or foot. Following are the most common reasons for stress fractures in children.

Bones that are still growing

Playing sports can build teamwork skills and contribute to social and emotional health along with building your child’s physical health. However, children’s bones and soft tissue are not completely developed. Therefore, they’re more at risk for injury when stressed. 

Overuse injury

The most ubiquitous sports injuries are overuse injuries. The major cause of stress fractures in preadolescents is overuse. If your child just loves sports like soccer, field hockey, tennis, baseball, softball, basketball, and football and plays year-round, his bones may not get the rest they need as they grow. 

Weight-bearing activity does help build bones, but too much of anything can lead to deleterious effects, and in this case, that could mean a stress fracture. Research shows that high-impact physical activity does lead to stress fractures in preadolescents and adolescents, especially in girls

Sports specialization

If your child loves one particular sport, he wants to play it all year, even if it’s a seasonal sport. He may be on a travel team, going to regional games two or three hours away, with more frequent practices than others who aren’t on travel teams. He may go to summer camps specializing in his sport because he wants to improve. Intense, repetitive motions can lead to stress fractures

Rapid buildup in workouts

On the other hand, if your child becomes more of a couch potato when he’s not playing his sport, he can also be at risk of a stress fracture. If the coach starts with intense workouts and your child hasn’t been active in the months preceding them, your son or daughter is at risk for a stress fracture. The intensity and duration of practices should occur over a period of time, especially if your child hasn’t been very active before practices start at the beginning of the season. 

Improper footwear 

Your child should wear the proper shoes for his sport. Stiff shoes or shoes that lack enough cushioning can lead to overuse injuries such as stress fractures. 

Treatment for stress fractures 

Your child will need to take a break from his activity when he has a stress fracture. Rest is essential in healing the cracked bone. Your son or daughter may need a walking boot. We may recommend physical therapy. The exercises from physical therapy help your child regain range of motion and flexibility. Most importantly, we discuss with you and your child ways to prevent stress fractures in the future. 

Call or message Urgently Ortho for an appointment for your child if you suspect a stress fracture. You can rely on us for all of your family’s musculoskeletal needs. 

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