When gyms were closed and sports were cancelled during the pandemic, some athletes took the opportunity to rest. But many athletes, like cross-country runner Ava Sweeney, never stopped training. Thirteen-year-old Ava continued to run even though she was unable to train with her school or club teams. This fall, when it was time to start running again with her teammates at Trinity Episcopal School, Ava was ready to compete. But when she experienced leg pain after a cross country meet, Ava’s Mom, Danielle, scheduled an appointment with orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist, .
After reviewing x-rays and an MRI of Ava’s leg, Dr. McDonald diagnosed Ava with a in both her tibia and femur – an injury that is not very common in young athletes.
“A stress fracture begins as a small crack in a bone due to repetitive overuse,” said Dr. McDonald. “It can progress to a complete fracture across the bone if not treated appropriately.”
According to Dr. McDonald, stress fractures in very young athletes are not very common due to the fact that their bone quality tends to be very good, and they generally do not participate in repetitive overuse sports until high school.
For Ava, the injury means missing out on her cross-country season and a long road to recovery. Her treatment will require no weight bearing on her leg for four to six weeks followed byto strengthen her muscles. She will be out of running and impact activities for three months.
Dr. McDonald says Ava’s story is not uncommon this year. He’s seen an increase in injuries after the lack of activity during quarantine or in Ava’s case, from the rapid increase in activity in a short period of time. “We are certainly seeing an uptick in injuries including due to the lack of spring sports and summer conditioning coupled with the quick ramp up to middle school and high school sports this fall.”
Ava says the good that has come out of this injury is she has learned to listen to her body, a piece of advice Dr. McDonald recommends for all athletes.
“If you are having pain that lasts longer than a day or two after exercise, you should rest, ice, consider taking an anti-inflammatory, and resume activities once you’re pain free,” Dr. McDonald explains.
Dr. McDonald recommends athletes follow the 10% rule – increasing duration of sport, intensity, mileage, or speed no more than 10% each week. Slowly increasing activity after a hiatus from sports and not pushing through new pain will help keep athletes healthy and injury free.
To schedule an appointment with Dr. McDonald or any of our board certifiedin Austin, TX, request an appointment or call 512-439-1001.