Your feet are marvelously constructed, containing nearly 25% of your body’s bones. While fractures in the bones of your feet are treatable, they can be painful, and are often seen in athletes and dancers. Fractures of the metatarsal bones frequently happen as a result of activities that repetitively load the foot, such as sports that involve running. For example, Sammy Watkins of the Buffalo Bills recently suffered a fracture of the metatarsal. This injury is commonly known as a “Jones Fracture.” It is named for Sir Robert Jones, who first described the fracture in 1902, after he fractured his metatarsal bone while dancing.
The long bones in the middle of your foot are the metatarsal bones. Each one has a base, a shaft, a neck and a head. Fractures often occur in the fifth metatarsal, which is the long bone on the outside of your foot that connects to your little toe. A Jones fracture can be either a stress fracture (a tiny crack in the bone that occurs over time), or it can be an acute, or sudden, break. Other types of fractures can occur in the fifth metatarsal, such as mid shaft fractures, usually caused by trauma or twisting.
A Jones fracture is often mistaken for a sprain or an avulsion fracture. An avulsion fracture may occur as the result of an injury in which the ankle rolls, and a small piece of bone is pulled off the main bone by a tendon or ligament. Jones fractures are not as common as avulsion fractures and tend to be more difficult to treat. The area in which the Jones fracture occurs has a very small blood supply and, therefore, may take longer to heal.
Jones fractures are caused by overuse, repetitive stress or trauma, such as dropping a heavy object on your foot. Symptoms of fractures of the metatarsals include pain or tenderness on the outside of the mid foot, problems bearing weight or walking on the foot, bruising, discoloration, or a chronic ache on the outside of the mid foot. Often, someone who has suffered a Jones fracture may, in the beginning, feel a little soreness and then, over time, the pain gets more severe, until the injured person seeks medical attention.
Fractures of the metatarsal bones can be treated by immobilizing the foot or with surgery. As with any fracture, the goal is for the fracture to heal quickly and without complications. Your doctor will determine the best treatment plan, taking into consideration such factors as the severity of the injury, your level of activity, your age and your overall health. If the fracture is not severe, it may be treated with a cast, splint or walking boot for six to eight weeks. Athletes and other active people sometimes prefer surgery because it has a faster recovery time.
Whether caused by overuse, stress, or acute injury, fractures of the metatarsal bones are painful and require a lengthy recovery time. If you believe you have injured or fractured a bone in your foot, it is important to consult an experienced foot care physician as soon as possible. If not properly identified and treated, some fractures of the metatarsal bones may result in a non-union, which is the permanent failure of a bone to heal. Although with treatment, most Jones fractures heal well, prompt diagnosis and treatment as well as following your doctor’s recommendations, is essential to the healing and recovery process.