A stress fracture is when a bone becomes damaged by overuse. This can happen when an athlete increases intensity or distance of an activity, changes from a soft surface to a hard one, or has improper form.
This occurs because bones undergo bone resorption and become weaker before they become stronger. So if an athlete does not allow for enough time for the bone to rebuild and strengthen it becomes weaker creating a cycle leading to injury.
This injury is very common in runners with the stress fracture occurring at the front of the lower leg. Sometimes called shin-splints, or anterior tibial stress syndrome. However, the injury can also occur in the knee, femur, ankle, hip, lower back, and humerus.
The injury begins with pain, swelling, and focal tenderness. It then progresses and becomes constant (at rest and while exercising) and more intense (sometimes even at night). Rest is very important to allow the tissue to heal. In addition, stretching and strengthening are important in preventing stress fractures.