Metatarsal Fractures and Basketball,  Article #4

The metatarsals are the long bones in the middle of the foot that end at the bases of the toes.  There is five total, just as there are five toes.  These bones can be broken in a variety of different ways when playing basketball, including being forcefully stepped on, landing with the foot flexed up or down, as well as when making a hard cut.  The 5th metatarsal can be fractured in a particularly nasty way during twisting force on the foot, leading to the infamous Jones fracture at the base of the bone.   Jones fractures are very common in basketball and can follow the same injury pattern as ankle sprains.  Overall, metatarsals can break at their bases in the middle of the foot, in the middle of their shaft, or at the neck and head of the bone where it meets the initial toe bone.  Metatarsal fractures can occur either alone or in multiple numbers, and some injuries can create multiple fractures in a single metatarsal.

The symptoms of a metatarsal fracture usually include pain, swelling, bruising, and warmth in the foot.  The middle or front part of the foot will be painful to walk or stand on, and may be painful to move.  In the case of a Jones fracture the pain will be more to the outside of the foot.    In some cases, the symptoms of a metatarsal fracture may be minimal and difficult to notice initially, with more pain in the weeks following the actual injury.

Treating metatarsal fractures varies by which metatarsal is fractured, whether the fracture has moved the bone out of alignment, or how stable the bone is during the healing process.  Many metatarsal fractures can be easily healed by limiting weight bearing pressure using a walking fracture boot.  The healing process is usually six weeks, especially in healthy athletes.  More unstable fractures or multiple metatarsal fractures require the use of a cast and crutches for support and complete limitation of weight bearing.  If the fracture has moved out of place, it must be returned to a proper position by either externally manipulating the fracture back to a proper position, or by surgically repairing the fracture and securing the bone with medical hardware.  Surgery is often necessary for Jones fractures in athletes (the base of the 5th metatarsal bone on the outside of the foot), as this area is often unstable.



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