A stress fracture of the fibula is a small fracture or hairline crack in the bone. It is not as common as a stress fracture of the tibia because the fibula is not used in load bearing in the same way.
Symptoms of a fibula stress fracture
Symptoms consist of pain and local tenderness at a point on the fibula. There will be a pain in the lower leg on weight-bearing although this is not as painful as a stress fracture of the tibia. The pain may ease off after a period of rest but get gradually worse with exercise.
The main function of the fibula bone is as a point of attachment for many of the muscles of the lower leg. The tibia is the weight bearing bone of the two whereas the fibula has much of its surface for muscle attachment. This results in traction and twisting forces placed on the bone from the surrounding muscles which over time cause a stress fracture.
Athletes with excessive pronation or rolling in of the feet when running are more susceptible because the peroneal muscles must work harder for longer during toe off in the running gait cycle.
Treatment for a fibula stress fracture
What can the athlete do?
Rest from training and competition until the local bone tenderness is gone. A stress fracture is unlikely to show up on an X-ray until two or three weeks into the healing process although a bone scan or MRI may give more information. Rest from running and other aggravating activities for a period of 6 weeks is often recommended.
Wear a heat retainer calf support will protect the muscles of the lower leg reducing the load on the fibula. Before returning to full activity stretching and strengthening exercises should be done on a regular base.
What can the sports injury therapist do?
Apply sports massage techniques to the muscles of the lower leg. This will help restore the condition of the muscles making them flexible and supple. A very gradual return to full training is required.