Lower extremity overuse bone injury risk factors in collegiate athletes: a pilot study


Background and Purpose:

There is limited evidence regarding risk factors for lower extremity overuse bone injury (LEOBI) in collegiate athletes. The purposes of the study were to: 1) determine incidence of LEOBI in selected sports and its impact on athletic participation and ADL, 2) assess risk relationships between LEOBI and selected risk factors, and 3) establish the viability of using calcaneal densitometry as a screening tool to identify risk for LEOBI.

Study Design:

Prospective analytical cohort design


Collegiate athletes in selected sports (swimming/diving, women’s soccer, field hockey, cross‐country/track) at one university were invited to participate. Consenting athletes completed an initial questionnaire including demographic information, history, and menstrual function. Measurements included height/weight, hip abductor strength, foot posture index, and calcaneal bone mineral density. Athletes were monitored for potential LEOBI for nine months and an algorithm was used to determine if physician referral was required. The primary outcome of interest was the occurrence of physician‐diagnosed LEOBI. If LEOBI was diagnosed by the physician, the athlete completed a follow‐up visit including a repeat bone mineral density scan. All athletes were invited for a repeat scan at the end of the year and completed a final questionnaire. Athlete demographics were summarized using descriptive statistics and differences in continuous risk factors were analyzed using t‐tests and ANOVA. Finally, risk relationships for categorical variables were analyzed using chi‐square and relative risk.


84 athletes (64 female, 20 male) consented to participate. Over the study period, eight athletes (one male, seven females) were diagnosed with LEOBI (LEOBI group), five with stress fractures and three with medial tibial stress syndrome. The other 76 athletes who did not have a diagnosis of LEOBI were placed in the non‐LEOBI group. Five of the eight were cross‐country/track athletes; no swimming/diving athletes had bone injury. Sport (cross‐country/track) had a significant relative risk value of 2.26 (95% CI = 1.18‐4.32) for LEOBI. There was no association between LEOBI occurrence and sex, hip abductor strength, body mass index, foot type, and menstrual function. There was no difference in bone mineral density at initial or follow‐up measures between LEOBI and non‐LEOBI groups (p>.05) when analyzing all athletes. When analyzing ground‐based athletes only at follow‐up (n=44), athletes with LEOBI had lower bone mineral density of right (p = .05) and left (p =.07) calcaneus. The relative risk for developing LEOBI based on calcaneal bone mineral density below the mean of the study participants was 2.1 (95%CI = 1.09‐3.35) on the left and 1.53 (95% CI=.80‐ 3.06) on the right.


The incidence of LEOBI in this population of athletes was approximately 10%. Risk factors were sport (cross‐country/track) and decreased left calcaneal bone mineral density. This study supports the use of calcaneal bone mineral density as a screening measurement for LEOBI risk and suggests the need for further investigation into additional LEOBI risk factors.

Level of evidence:


Keywords: Bone density, medial tibial stress syndrome, overuse injury, risk, stress fracture

Autor / Fonte:Mark F Reinking, Tricia M Austin, Jason Bennett, Ann M Hayes, William A Mitchell International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy 2015, 10 (2): 155-67
Link: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4387723/pdf/ijspt-04-155.pdf