Among them, a metatarsal fracture is one of the most debilitating injuries a runner can have. The metatarsals are the most important bones in the foot since they allow for movement and stability. Each of them runs from the base of the foot near the ankle, all the way to the toes. A metatarsal fracture can put an athlete on the treatment table for anywhere between a couple of months to a year, depending on the severity.
This article will cover the best ways to recover from a metatarsal fracture, and look at examples of athletes who have made it back after sustaining the injury.
SUSTAINING A METATARSAL FRACTURE
Like stress fractures in any part of the legs, metatarsal fractures happen when runners increase their training intensity and volume over several weeks to a few months. The shortage of calcium, a biomechanical flaw in your running style or differences in body structure can also contribute to the injury. An early sign of a metatarsal fracture is feeling pain in your foot. It may be a pain initially felt while running, but over time you’ll feel it even when you’re not. You’ll also see swelling and possible discoloration or bruising. In many cases, you will also have difficulty walking and bearing weight on the injured foot.
RECOVERY AND REHABILITATION PROCESS
After consulting with a doctor about your injury, an X-ray will most likely be taken to gain a better picture of the fracture. This will show exactly where the fracture is and indicate the proper course of treatment. In some cases where the bones are far apart, surgery may be required. But for most cases, the bones are close enough together for the treatment to not require surgery. After reduction, the process of putting the bones back in the right place, the doctor will most probably place your foot in a cast. This will help in immobilizing the foot for a proper full recovery.
Very Well Health explains that most casts for metatarsal fractures are non-weight bearing, meaning that you can’t put your foot on the floor or have any weight on it. This means that most runners recovering from the injury will need assistive devices like crutches or a walker to move around. The cast will then be removed after around 6-8 weeks. Physical therapy begins to restore the range of motion, reduce swelling, improve gait and strengthen the muscles. The most important point for anyone who has suffered a metatarsal fracture is not to rush back to using the foot. This will only lead to further damage and a prolonged recovery time.
ATHLETES WHO'VE HAD METATARSAL FRACTURES
While metatarsal fractures are serious injuries, they don’t necessarily spell the end of performing at your peak. In fact, many athletes have recovered from the injury and gone back to perform at the highest level. Canadian Olympic marathoner Reid Coolsaet sustained a metatarsal fracture in 2017, and got back to racing after a year of cutting his yearly training regime to half its volume. Coolsaet owes his renewed performance to disciplined therapy and rehabilitation. Even in instances where a metatarsal fracture requires surgery in order for it to be fixed quickly, recovery should still be a priority. Brazilian soccer superstar Neymar’s injury is one of the most famous examples of a metatarsal fracture, as it almost cost him the chance to play in the 2018 World Cup. His surgery involved putting a screw in the fifth MT of the right foot and he was out for three months to recover from his metatarsal injury. Neymar's strict recovery however worked and he played in the opening game in the 2018 World Cup.
For anyone who thinks that they won’t fully recover these athletes prove that is possible.
It goes without saying that no matter the sport, proper and patient recovery is essential in bouncing back from serious injuries like metatarsal fractures. Hopefully this article has helped you understand the best way to recover from a metatarsal fracture and provided some motivation on pushing past the injury and getting back into your running shoes.
About the Author
Our guest author this week is Allison Gale. Here's a little more about Allison...