Practical Tips For Avoiding Stress Fractures During Sports

Why Stress Fractures Occur

Stress fractures are minor cracks in bones, often resulting from repetitive force or overuse through activities such as running or jumping. These injuries are prevalent among athletes due to the constant stress that they place on their bones.

A sudden increase in physical activity, changes in training intensity or using improper equipment can be causes of stress fractures. Athletes and active individuals should pay attention to their body’s signals, and recognise the importance of proper precautions to prevent these injuries.

Wear Proper Footwear

Athletic shoes should provide sufficient support and cushioning to absorb impact forces and distribute pressure evenly across the foot.

Ensure that training shoes fit well and offer adequate arch support. Specialised shoes designed for specific sports can enhance performance and minimise stress on the bones.

Runners, for example, need shoes with good heel and forefoot cushioning to mitigate impact forces. They should also be replaced regularly, typically after every 300 to 500 miles, as athletic shoes lose their cushioning and support over time.

Increase Training Intensity Gradually

Since many sports activities place high demands on the musculoskeletal system, the principle of progressive overload is important when training.

Slowly ramp up the intensity, duration, and frequency of your workouts to allow your body to adapt to new stresses instead of rushing into them. Athletes should follow the “10% rule” and avoid increasing their training load by more than 10% in any given wee, to provide a structured approach to training advancement.

Make adjustments to training intensity only after tracking the body’s responses to current training loads. This reduces the risk of placing excessive stress on the bones, and it also aids in achieving steady performance improvement.

Prioritise Form and Technique

Maintaining proper form and technique during exercise is necessary to prevent stress fractures. When stress is distributed evenly across the musculoskeletal system, it minimises the risk of overloading specific bones or muscles.

Alignment: Keep the body in correct alignment during exercises to distribute forces more evenly. For runners, this means maintaining a neutral spine and avoiding overstriding.

Equipment Use: Utilise equipment correctly, whether it’s weights in the gym or sporting gear, to ensure that the body is not compensating in a way that increases injury risk.

Professional Guidance: Instruction from a qualified professional is useful for learning the correct form, especially for beginners or those engaging in new activities.

Continuous feedback and self-assessment are also essential for maintaining and improving form so that athletes can prevent injuries and enhance their overall performance.

Cross-Train To Keep Muscles Strong

Cross-training helps to diversify physical activity and strengthen a wide range of muscles, which enhances overall fitness without excessive strain on one part of the body.

Building strength in muscles that are not primarily used in an athlete’s main sport can improve performance and reduce injury risk.

For example, incorporating swimming or cycling into a runner’s training regimen lessens the impact on the legs and feet, providing a restful yet strengthening alternative. Activities like yoga and pilates improve flexibility and core strength, further supporting injury prevention.

Maintain Good Nutritional Health

Ensure sufficient calcium intake by eating dairy products like milk, cheese, and yoghurt. Vitamin D is another important nutrient, and it is found in fatty fish, eggs, and fortified foods.

Maintain a balanced diet comprising fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains. Other nutrients like magnesium and vitamin K also contribute to bone health and should be included in an athlete’s diet too.

Drink enough water, as dehydration can affect performance and may indirectly increase the risk of stress fractures.

Rest When Necessary

Rest days are essential for muscle and bone recovery because the body needs sufficient time to repair and strengthen bones in between training. Pay attention to signals like pain, excessive fatigue, and decreased performance, which indicate the need for more rest.

Quality sleep is important for recovery so that the body can undergo processes for muscle repair and bone health. Sleep triggers the release of growth hormone, which is essential for tissue repair and growth. Stick to a healthy and consistent sleeping schedule to support these natural repair mechanisms.


Preventing stress fractures in athletes involves a comprehensive approach that combines employing preventive strategies and listening to the body’s signals. It requires paying meticulous attention to equipment, training plans and diets to avoid sudden strains on the musculoskeletal system while also offering the body the necessary respite for recovery and repair.

Amidst these preventive strategies, it’s also important to seek professional advice for personalised training and nutrition plans and to address any signs of overuse or injury promptly. Prevention, informed by a holistic understanding of stress fracture mitigating measures, is the key to sustaining a healthy, active lifestyle in sports.

Are you experiencing persistent symptoms from a recent stress fracture or injury? Consult our sports medicine specialist for an accurate diagnosis and personalised treatment plan.