Return to Play in Stress Fractures of the Hip, Thigh, Knee, and Leg

  • Hélder PereiraEmail author
  • Duarte Sousa
  • Pieter d’Hooghe
  • Sérgio Gomes
  • Joaquim Miguel Oliveira
  • Rui L. Reis
  • João Espregueira-Mendes
  • Pedro L. Ripoll
  • Kenneth Hunt


A stress fracture results from abnormal loading or inadequate recovery time following repeated loadings on bony structures. Stress fractures occur after an increase in frequency, duration, or intensity of exercise creating imbalance between bone resorption and formation, most frequently affecting athletes and young people. Both intrinsic and extrinsic risk factors have been established. An estimated 90% of stress fractures in athletes and footballers affect the lower limb, with the tibia being the second most frequent injury site followed by the pelvis. Clinical history and physical examination are critical for early diagnosis and optimal treatment. Plain radiographs have low sensitivity and are often inadequate to detect this condition. The most frequent imaging exam is currently MRI, which has good sensitivity and specificity. Conservative treatment is an appropriate and effective treatment in most cases. High-risk fractures (e.g., involving high tension sites or hypovascular zones) often require surgical treatment to facilitate healing and reduce risk of refracture. Location of the fracture, characteristics of the fracture and the athlete, and the level of competition must be taken into account during treatment decision-making. There are no perfect imaging techniques nor clear clinical evidence-based guidelines concerning return to play. However, as a “golden rule,” the athlete should be symptom-free for 2–3 weeks before returning to the pitch. The fact that lower extremity stress fractures are relatively rare conditions creates increased difficulty in determining the effectiveness of treatments, particularly newer treatment options. This chapter provides a comprehensive management approach to stress fractures of the lower limb, with the exception of foot and ankle stress fractures, including the most updated information concerning optimal treatment and return to play.


Bone Footballers MRI Pelvis Return to play Risk factors Stress fracture Tibia 

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Copyright information

© ESSKA 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hélder Pereira
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
    • 5
    • 6
    Email author
  • Duarte Sousa
    • 3
  • Pieter d’Hooghe
    • 7
  • Sérgio Gomes
    • 5
    • 8
  • Joaquim Miguel Oliveira
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
    • 5
    • 6
  • Rui L. Reis
    • 1
    • 2
  • João Espregueira-Mendes
    • 9
    • 10
    • 11
    • 12
  • Pedro L. Ripoll
    • 4
  • Kenneth Hunt
    • 13
  1. 1.3B’s Research Group–Biomaterials, Biodegradables and BiomimeticsUniversity of Minho, Headquarters of the European Institute of Excellence on Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine, AvePark, Parque de Ciência e Tecnologia, Zona Industrial da GandraBarcoPortugal
  2. 2.ICVS/3B’s–PT Government Associate LaboratoryBragaPortugal
  3. 3.Orthopedic DepartmentCentro Hospitalar Póvoa de VarzimVila do CondePortugal
  4. 4.Ripoll y De Prado Sports Clinic—FIFA Medical Centre of ExcellenceMurciaSpain
  5. 5.International Sports Traumatology Centre of Ave, Taipas TermalCaldas das TaipasPortugal
  6. 6.Dom Henrique Research CentrePortoPortugal
  7. 7.Department of Orthopaedic SurgeryASPETAR Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine HospitalDohaQatar
  8. 8.Clínica do DragãoEspregueira-Mendes Sports Centre—FIFA Medical Centre of ExcellencePortoPortugal
  9. 9.Dom Henrique Research CentrePortoPortugal
  10. 10.3B’s Research Group–Biomaterials, Biodegradables and Biomimetics, Headquarters of the European Institute of Excellence on Tissue Engineering and Regenerative MedicineUniversity of Minho, AvePark, Parque de Ciência e Tecnologia, Zona Industrial da GandraBarcoPortugal
  11. 11.ICVS/3B’s–PT Government Associate LaboratoryBragaPortugal
  12. 12.Department of OrthopaedicMinho UniversityBragaPortugal
  13. 13.Department of Orthopaedic SurgeryUniversity of Colorado School of MedicineAuroraUSA

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