When you hear the term "bone fracture," you probably imagine something like a child wearing a cast after falling out of a tree. But another type of bone fracture is a risk for adults—particularly athletic adults who are otherwise in good shape: a stress or hairline fracture.
Stress fractures occur when too much weight or stress is put on a weakened bone. It's often the result of an imbalance in bone health caused by actions that outpace the body's natural bone rebuilding process.
But this is good news, because it means that with proper training practices and other strategies, you can prevent stress fractures from occurring.
Here are 9 actions you can take to prevent stress fractures:
1. Make training adjustments gradually.
Any dramatic increase in the frequency, duration, or intensity of your workouts can raise your risk for stress fractures. If you want to add time or intensity to your training program, do so over the course of weeks or even months, depending on your goals. For example, runners who want to safely up their mileage are encouraged to follow the 10% rule, meaning their miles should not increase more than 10% of the total from week to week.
2. Be careful when changing surfaces.
Stress fractures can be triggered when you switch from running on a treadmill to asphalt, so make transitions cautiously. This can also help prevent shin splints.
3. Check your equipment.
Stress fractures of the foot can be triggered by worn out or poor quality shoes. Supportive shoes also can prevent shin splints and IT band injuries.
4. Check your form.
Poor technique can be a common cause of stress fractures. This is especially true among recreational athletes.
5. Get enough calcium and vitamin D.
Both of these nutrients are important for bone health, so make sure you're getting the recommended daily amount for your gender and age. You can also ask your doctor if supplements are a good option for you.
6. Use caution when transitioning from off-season to peak-season.
If your training regimen changes drastically throughout the year, ramp up slowly when peak-season approaches.
You're also at elevated risk if you have no off-season and engage in one sport or activity year-round. Children, whose bodies are still developing, are particularly at risk for this type of stress fracture.
8. Take breaks during vacation.
If you're mostly sedentary, but then go on vacation and walk all day long, your risk goes up.
9. Switch up your shoe style.
Transitioning from wearing only flats to only heels may raise your stress fracture risk.