A navicular stress fracture is a common form of stress fracture affecting athletes. The injury typically affects those who engage in sports that require explosive sprinting and jumping.
The navicular is one of the tarsal bones in the ankle which rests on top of the heel bone. A navicular stress fracture is due to overuse or repetitive strain, usually from high impact sports such as hurdling, sprinting and jumping. Training errors or poor technique can also increase the likelihood of sustaining stress fractures.
The injury occurs if the navicular bone is pinched or compressed between the bones to the anterior and back part of it, thus causing it to be compressed. If the individual has diminished dorsiflexion in the ankle, he/she is prone to a navicular stress fracture since the midfoot is required to compensate for the lack of movement.
What are the indications?
The indications of a navicular stress fracture include weakly limited throbbing in the midfoot that worsens during exercise. The pain might radiate throughout the interior arch of the foot and settles rapidly with rest only to recur as training is continued.
Tenderness might be felt if the thumb is pushed into the top part of the foot over the navicular bone which is called the N spot.
Management of a navicular stress fracture
The treatment for a navicular stress fracture usually depends on the severity. In case the injury is categorized as a stress reaction in which the exterior part of the bone was not damaged, using a walking splint is recommended until the symptoms settle and followed by gradual return to full fitness.
In case a stress fracture is diagnosed, avoid weight bearing using a fall cast for up to 6 weeks. After this period, the N spot on the upper region of the navicular bone is usually perceivable. If it is sore, the cast is applied again for another 2 weeks without bearing any weight.
When the cast is removed, it is vital to mobilize the ankle and foot for at least 6 weeks. Mobility and strengthening exercises for the ankle must be performed before the individual runs again.
Quick Note / Disclaimer
The material posted on this page on navicular stress fracture is for learning and educational purposes only. To learn to recognize and manage fractures, register for a first aid and CPR course with Victoria First Aid.