Jones fractures are a common foot injury that occur in athletes. Athletes who participate in high-impact sports such as basketball, running, football, and soccer are more likely to develop Jones fractures. It’s important to understand the risk factors of what causes athletes to develop Jones fractures in the first place.
In this article, we’ll also discuss how long the recovery process is for an athlete who develops a Jones fracture. Fast recovery and return to play is crucial for this population.
What Is a Jones Fracture?
A Jones fracture is a type of fracture that affects the fifth metatarsal bone. This bone is located on the outer aspect of the foot. Unlike other fractures, Jones metatarsal fractures are located in an area where the blood supply to the bone is poor. This complicates the healing process.
When athletes sustain these fractures, it can be incredibly worrisome because it can impact how many weeks they need to stay off of their foot before returning to play.
What Are the Risk Factors?
Certain activities that occur during sports such as jumping and pivoting can place excess stress on the 5th metatarsal, causing it to break. Sports like basketball and soccer require rapid cutting motions of the foot and changes in direction.
There are certain anatomical risk factors that can place athletes at a higher risk for developing Jones fractures.
Athletes who have a long thin fifth metatarsal bone, a high arch, and a rearfoot varus foot structure are at higher risk for developing a metatarsal Jones fracture.
A rearfoot varus foot structure means that the heel bone is tilted inward and the rest of the foot is tilted outward. This type of foot structure and a high arch places additional stress on the fifth metatarsal bone, causing it to crack.
Athletes who have low Vitamin D levels (<30ng/dL) also have an increased risk of developing a Jones fracture. It’s important for athletes to maintain appropriate Vitamin D levels through nutrition and supplementation to prevent injuries.
Improper Footwear that lacks support and the cushioning necessary can also increase the risk of a Jones fracture. Shoes with soles that are flexible are not supportive and can cause excess stress to be placed on the fifth metatarsal bone.
Athletes should wear well-fitted shoes that they are measured for. Shoes should not be too tight or too loose.
Athletes who have foot deformities should wear custom orthotics to correct this. They should see a sports medicine Podiatrist to get fitted for custom orthotics.
Custom orthotics can be worn in shoes and can help rebalance the foot. They can help alleviate pressure from the outside of the foot.
Recovery After Non-surgical Treatment
Without surgery, it can take anywhere from 10-20 weeks for an athlete to recover from a Jones fracture (1). During this time, the individual will have to remain off of the foot in a cast or cast boot.
Due to the poor blood supply at the fracture site, fractures will take longer to heal without surgery.
After the fracture heals, the doctor will suggest physical therapy to help improve strength and range of motion before the athlete is able to return to their activities.
Full recovery can take up to 6 months.
Recovery After Jones Fracture Surgery
Surgery is necessary for athletes who have displaced fractures that cannot heal properly without intervention. A displaced fracture is when the bone is broken and the fracture fragments are shifted.
Surgery for a Jones fracture is often encouraged for athletes because it can reduce the recovery time and allow the athlete to return to sports faster. During surgery, the surgeon will stabilize a fracture and insert plates and screws through the fracture site to help keep the fracture fragments from shifting. The hardware can also help stabilize the fracture site.
Another study studied 26 elite basketball players who had sustained Jones Fractures over 19 NBA seasons. They found that the majority of NBA players who sustained a Jones fracture and underwent operative treatment showed return to pre-injury level of competition and no decrease in performance on their return to play (3). This suggests that surgical intervention is effective in treating these fractures.
Complications After Jones Fracture Surgery
Although surgery is very effective in treating Jones fractures, complications can happen.
One of the complications that can occur is re-fracture. Athlete’s who are involved in high-impact sports who return to play too soon after surgery can re-fracture the bone.
In these cases, your surgeon will repair the fracture site again, and may insert a bone graft or stem cells into the fracture site to aid in fracture healing.
Other complications that can occur after surgery include infection, nerve damage, and hardware failure.
Ongoing pain can also cause athletes to take time away from sporting activities.
Long-Term Effects of Jones Fractures
Some of the long-term effects that athletes may experience after sustaining a Jones fracture is chronic pain, stiffness, and weakness of the foot. If the fracture involves the joint, arthritis can develop and cause pain. It’s important to diagnose and treat foot fractures early to prevent long-term complications.
Tips on How Athletes Can Speed up Recovery After a Jones Fracture
If you’re an athlete recovering from a Jones fracture, here are several tips that can help speed up recovery:
- Get fitted for custom orthotics: Custom orthotics can help correct your foot posture and relieve pressure from the outside of your foot. Contact your local foot doctor to get fitted for a pair.
- Wear the right shoes: Make sure to get your feet length and width measured yearly. Go to a shoe store or your foot doctor’s office to receive recommendations on the proper shoes.
- Eat a healthy diet: A healthy diet that contains protein, calcium and Vitamin D can help promote bone healing. Make sure to stay well hydrated as well.
- Cross train: Cross training activities (biking, swimming, and using an elliptical machine) can help maintain fitness levels, flexibility, and strength. These exercises allow the athlete to work out without putting weight on the foot.
What Athletes Have Had a Jones Fracture?
Here are a few examples of athletes who have sustained foot Jones fractures:
- Kevin Durant, NBA player
- Deebo Samul, NFL player
- Dez Bryant, NFL player
- Ben Simmons, NBA player
- Zahire Smith, NBA player
Resources That Athletes Can Access if They Suspect They Have a Jones Fracture
Athletes can access several resources to help them identify and treat Jones Fractures. These include:
- Athletic trainers: Many sports teams have access to athletic trainers who can provide immediate care and support for injuries such as Jones fractures.
- Sports medicine specialists: Athletes can consult with sports medicine specialists who have expertise in diagnosing and treating sports-related injuries, including Jones fractures.
- Urgent care clinics: These facilities can provide quick access to medical care for athletes who suspect they have a Jones fracture.
- Online resources: Athletes can also find helpful information online, including articles, videos, and forums where they can connect with others who have experienced similar injuries.
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- Japjec M, Starešinić M, Starjački M, Žgaljardić I, Štivičić J, Šebečić B. Treatment of proximal fifth metatarsal bone fractures in athletes. Injury. 2015 Nov;46 Suppl 6:S134-6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26563480/
- Delee JC, Evans JP, Julian J. Stress fracture of the fifth metatarsal. The American Journal of Sports Medicine. 1983;11(5):349-353.https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/036354658301100513
- Begly JP, Guss M, Ramme AJ, Karia R, Meislin RJ. Return to Play and Performance After Jones Fracture in National Basketball Association Athletes. Sports Health. 2016 Jul;8(4):342-6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26627111/
- Ruta DJ, Parker D. Jones Fracture Management in Athletes. Orthop Clin North Am. 2020 Oct;51(4):541-553. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32950224/
- Albloushi M, Alshanqiti A, Qasem M, Abitbol A, Gregory T. Jones type fifth metatarsal fracture fixation in athletes: A review and current concept. World J Orthop. 2021 Sep 18;12(9):640-650.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34631448/
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