Metatarsal fracture - Foot Injuries

The metatarsals are the long, thin bones in the foot, which connect to the phalanges (toe bones) and the tarsal bones near the ankle joint.

Causes of a metatarsal fracture

Metatarsal fractures may be acute or progressive injuries; usually, acute injuries are caused by trauma such as accidents or contact with other individuals, objects or surfaces; this type of injury is common in football as a result of contact with the studs of another player during a heavy tackle. Progressive injuries are often the result of repetitive actions which gradually apply increased pressure to the bone causing it to fracture; this is also commonly known as a stress fracture. Fractures of the 2nd, 3rd and 4th metatarsal are the most common types of metatarsal fracture.

Symptoms of a metatarsal fracture

The most common symptoms of an acute metatarsal fracture are severe pain, swelling and a change in the physical appearance of the toe (this does not always happen). Symptoms of a progressive fracture often include pain during exercise and swelling.

Treatment for a metatarsal fracture

Treatment for a stress fracture will revolve around rest; the affected foot may be immobilised to allow the toe time to heal and prevent weight bearing. Anti-inflammatory and analgesic medication may also be prescribed to reduce swelling and control pain. Acute fractures may require surgery; this is carried out if the positioning of the bones has been altered by the injury. If the bones are still in the right position, the foot will be immobilised for a period of time, using a cast.

During this time the individual will use crutches to prevent the foot from bearing weight. Once the injury has started to heal, physiotherapy will be used to gently reintroduce exercise and build strength in the bone and surrounding area; physiotherapy will also help to condition the foot in order to make it more resistant to injury in the future.

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