Stress Fractures: Diagnosis

30 Nov 2022
Charlie Curnow and Zac Fishers in action during a Carlton Football Club training session at Ikon Park
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – AUGUST 19: Charlie Curnow of the Blues (R) and Zac Fisher of the Blues in action during a Carlton Blues AFL training session at Ikon Park on August 19, 2022 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images via AFL Photos)

Training loads, nutrition, biomechanics, and the nature of the exercise are all key contributors to both stress fractures and overuse related musculoskeletal (MSK) injuries.

In AFL, the nature of the game’s movement mechanics, intense training loads and high-impact contact associated with pre-season training can pose risks.

When injuries do unfortunately occur, the high-performance staff and rehabilitation team at the Carlton Football Club rely on the experts at Imaging Associates to deliver timely, accurate and detailed scans and reports.

Typically, quite difficult to diagnose clinically, stress fractures often require a high index of suspicion to be identified. They pose problems radiologically given that early on, they are occult on x-rays, which can in turn lead to mismanagement and subsequent complete fracture. Early detection and specialist involvement are therefore critical.

Using Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) at Imaging Associates allows for early detection and diagnosis. In certain types of stress fractures, the athlete is also sent for a CT scan to give further bony detail.

MRI is the gold standard for both diagnosis and grading of stress fractures, which can be categorised as either high or low risk. Commonly seen high risk stress fractures are the navicular and the base of the fifth metatarsal.

While CT scans are not sensitive in the detection of early stress fractures, they can be useful in certain cases when it comes to assessing fracture lines appropriately and accurately in navicular and pars stress fractures. CT is also often used in the assessment of healing in the follow up post diagnosis.

As is the case with many injuries, a fast and accurate diagnosis is key to implementing the correct rehabilitation program.

Through our partnership, Imaging Associates provides the high-performance team at the Carlton Football Club with the diagnosis and treatment necessary to help the athlete return to the game sooner.