Jones fractures are becoming a very common athletic injury. Especially in the world of pro sports. After all, when professional athletes in particular suffer this kind of injury? Then they tend to get a lot of media attention.
But why does this kind of injury in particular get noticed? Because the injury is often tricky to diagnose. And that means that, by the time it's discovered, you may already have been completely sidelined. So, do I have your attention now? If so, read on to learn more about this pesky injury!
What is a Jones Fracture?
A Jones fracture is a broken bone in the midsection of the fifth metatarsal bone of the foot. Remember, you have five metatarsal bones, and they're each located between your toe and tarsal bones (Those are the seven bones grouped near the back of your foot).
When you fracture the mid-section of your fifth metatarsal, the injury happens at the base of the bone, near the little toe. If left unnoticed or untreated, this fracture will cause pain and swelling. But that's not the only trouble associated with this kind of sports injury.
Unlike other metatarsal fractures, Jones fracture symptoms include:
Pain, swelling, and tenderness, especially on the outside of the foot
Unfortunately, symptoms of a Jones fracture are quite similar to the symptoms you get with a sprained foot. As a result, the injury can be difficult to spot early on. And that's a big problem. But before we get to why diagnosis timing matters, let's review the causes for this injury.
Risks and Triggers
Most often, Jones fractures are linked to twisted ankles. But how could an ankle injury break your foot bone? The answer lies in your Peroneal Tendon. It travels along the outside of your ankle, attaching to the base of your fifth metatarsal bone.
As a result, if you twist your ankle, your tendon will pull on the bone. And if it pulls hard enough? That can cause a Jones fracture.
Other common causes also affect mostly athletes. If you play a sport like tennis, that involves lots of side-to-side movement, your risk increases. The same is true for ballet dancers who work en pointe. But even engaging in regular activity can leave you with a Jones fracture, as other risk factors include a sudden increase in training intensity. Furthermore, weight gain and running on uneven surfaces can fracture your fifth metatarsal.
Diagnosis and Treatment
In order to diagnose this injury, you'll need a physical exam that includes reviewing your recent activity levels. If we suspect a Jones fracture, we'll send you to our in-house x-ray in Houston. That way, we can help you get a quick diagnosis for your injury.
But why does it matter when you diagnose a Jones fracture? Well, as with other fractures, early diagnosis is super-important here so you don't make your injury worse. But, it's extra important when your fifth metatarsal breaks, because the area of the Jones fracture has a very small blood supply. That means the injury takes much longer to heal. It may even need to be surgically repaired. Worst of all, if you don't quickly diangose and treat a Jones fracture? The delay can result in a non-union. (That's the medical term for a permanent failure of a bone to heal.)
Typically, we'll have to treat a Jones fracture with surgery, not just with casting or other types of immobilization. But what will that procedure look like? During that surgery, we place a screw in the foot, right at the site of the fracture. That placement helps stabilize the surrounding area. In turn, you'll reducing your downtime and, hopefully, make it less likely that you'll re-injure the bone.
Jones Fracture Recovery
Make no mistake, it takes time to come back from this injury. But how long exactly will it take for a Jones fracture to heal? Well, everyone heals differently. But if you're an athlete, following surgery on your fifth metatarsal bone, you will typically be out of commission for 6-8 weeks. Just remember, that's only a guess. Because, with tricky sports injuries like this one, even our best guesses are often wrong.
New Treatment Options for Jones Fractures
When surgery and immobilization don't work, some individuals will attempt to inject bone marrow to the sight of the fracture. Hopefully, that will stimulate new bone growth in the area.
That might sound extreme. But let's remember that Jones fractures are notoriously difficult to heal due to the limited blood flow in that area of the foot. (Plus, since it occurs at the base of the bone, beside the ankle, the fracture itself further block blood flow.) Given this less-than-ideal setting for healing, injecting a bone marrow concentrate rich in stem cells can speed up healing. Basically, the injection stimulates new bone growth in a less-invasive form than a bone-graft surgery.
Recently, studies proved that Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) can also reduce healing time after a Jones Fracture. With this procedure, we inject the injured site with a concentrated form of your own plasma. Like a bone marrow injection, PRP can speed up healing. It can also help you form new bone at a faster paste. And, best of all, this form of regenerative medicine uses nothing but your body's own substances. As such, it offers you a more natural, minimally invasive healing option.
Metatarsal Fracture and Jones Fracture Care in Houston, TX
Of course, even with innovative treatments, the healing process from Jones fractures can be long, drawn out and frustrating. That's why our best advice is to take measure to prevent a Jones fracture. You may be able to do so by being careful where you train. And graduaolly increasing how hard or how often that training happens. Shoe choice can also help prevent this injury. But sometimes, your best efforts will still leave you with a fracture. And that's when quick action is crucial.
There are so many unavoidable challenges associated with repairing a Jones fracture. (That includes poor blood flow to the area, inhibiting the body’s natural ability to heal.) For this reason, it is of utmost importance to work with an expert foot surgeon when trying to overcome this injury.
Dr. Andrew Schneider has years of experience treating Jones fractures and other broken bones in the feet, toes and ankles. Before you go under the knife to repair your Jones fracture, schedule an appointment at Tanglewood Foot Specialists. We'll offer you a valuable second opinion. And we'll offer tools, like regenerative medicine, that can speed up and support your full recovery.