What Is A Broken Metatarsal?
A broken metatarsal is a broken bone in the foot. The metatarsal bones are the group of five long bones in the mid/front of the foot which connect to the toes. These are numbered first – fifth metatarsal starting with the big toe. A metatarsal stress fracture comes as a result of a sudden force to the bones which can be common in contact sports such as rugby and hockey, or more commonly these can be as a result of overuse which is often seen in athletes and runners.
- Overuse injury
- Insufficient rest period
- Building pain and tenderness in the mid/front of the foot
- RICE method
- Removable/plaster cast
- Using a brace or support
- Rehabilitation exercise
- Surgery required in rare cases
Can You Walk On A Broken Metatarsal?
You may be able to walk, dependent on how painful the injury is. It is best to avoid putting too much pressure on the foot if you have a serious injury as rest will help aid recovery.
How Long Does It Take To Heal A Broken Metatarsal?
Six to eight weeks is the average recovery time for a broken metatarsal.
How Do You Know If You Have A Broken Metatarsal?
Pain, tenderness, bruising and swelling in the foot are signs of a broken metatarsal.
Often these injuries come as a result of poor biomechanics for example overpronation in which the foot rolls inwards whilst walking or running, causing the lower leg to turn inwards. Athletes who do not allow adequate rest periods between activity are also common sufferers of this injury.
Metatarsal fractures are most commonly found in the second, third and forth metatarsal bones and even more common in the second metatarsal when the second toe is longer than the first.
A patient who has suffered a metatarsal stress fracture will often suffer a building pain within the mid/front foot, especially when performing weight bearing activities such as walking and running. Swelling around the area as well as tenderness is also common. Patients will also feel a sharp pain when the area when pressure is applied to the metatarsal.
Bone scanners are usually the best way to diagnose a broken metatarsal or stress fracture as often x-rays can prove ineffective at picking up this injury when it is less severe. By using a bone scanner, the patient will receive will a much more precise image of the fracture as well as being able to detect the injury in the early stages where the fracture may not have developed. X-rays however may be used when an injury is in the later stages of the injury or in more severe cases as the fracture can be detected.
It is very important that a broken metatarsal or fractures are dealt with as quickly as possible when they first occur. If this injury is suspected, the RICE method (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevate) should be adopted immediately. Applying ice to the injury is very important as will reduce any swelling and offer cooling pain relief to the injury. Ideally, this should be done for around 20 minutes per hour. Any activity should be halted so that no further damage is caused to the area and medical attention should be sought as soon as possible.
Protective footwear with stiffer soles or a foot brace is often required to keep the injury stable to prevent further damage and allowing it to heal effectively. Taping and strapping techniques can also be applied to offer stability to the injury ad relieve stress put on the broken metatarsal.
Often athletes will need to maintain a certain level of activity so to minimise the effects on their performance once they return to sport. In these cases other activities which do not aggravate the area may be taken up such as swimming, which will keep the area strong and mobile without putting unnecessary pressure on the foot.
In some cases a removable cast may be worn in order to keep weight off the foot and often a plaster cast is necessary when the fracture is acute.
In rare, more severe cases where the fracture occurs on the fifth metatarsal surgery may be required to correct the injury which will involve inserting a screw into the bone to allow it to heal effectively.