Stress fractures represent the failure of the bony skeleton to absorb repetitive loads. This results in structural fatigue of the bone, causing pain, performance impairment and potentially a complete fracture. Loading can be intrinsic through transmission of impact forces within the bone and/or extrinsic via the application of tension across bone from the muscles and connective tissue. As a result, a footballer with a stress fracture may suffer prolonged periods out of the game and require further medical interventions including surgery.
Bone strain can be described in a continuum from bone strain (mild) to stress reaction to stress fracture (severe) and, ultimately, fracture.
The management of stress fractures generally involves a reduction of the inciting load to restore the normal bone physiology. In some cases, however, stress fractures may require special consideration and treatment. Prevention and early recognition of stress fractures is required to reduce the impact on the player.