The ABC network's very popular reality show, "Dancing with the Stars" has to deal with yet another foot related injury. Headlines were made when Olympic gold medalist and contestant on the show, Misty May-Treanor tore her Achilles Tendon. In fact, at the time I was interviewed by the local Sarasota news station to discuss the injury. Now, Tom Delay, the former Republican House Majority Leader has a "pre-stress fracture." In truth there is no such thing as a pre-stress fracture. The proper term is a stress reaction. I will explain what I mean. When x-rays were the only available test to evaluate bones you either saw a fracture or no fracture. Now with MRI scans, a special type of test using a magnet and a computer, you can see much greater detail. A stress fracture is when a bone is repeatedly subjected to minor trauma over and over again. This is what happens when you are a sedentary politician and all of sudden decide to train for a dancing competition for hours a day. Mr. Delay has what he is calling a pre-stress fracture, meaning that there is some swelling noted around the bone, but it is not fractured. If he continued with the amount of training he had been doing, he would likely end up with a stress fracture.
Stress fractures are often described as pin-point pain usually in the bones of the ball of the foot. These bones are called metatarsals and they are long and skinny. They tend to break at the neck of the bone. Along with pain, there is usually warmth, swelling and redness at the sight. Stress fractures are treated with rest, immobilization in a cast or cast boot, anti-inflammatory pills for pain and mostly time. Stress fractures take about 6 weeks to heal.
Mr. Delay is going to limit his dancing and wear more rigid shoes to help take the stresses off of his feet. This should limit the damage but I would not bet on him going all the way in the competition.
If you enjoy dancing, go right ahead. It is great exercise and a lot of fun, just try not to over do it. If you do and you feel pain in your foot you should see your podiatrist immediately. If you catch a stress fracture early you can limit the damage.
Committed to your health,
Dr. Craig Conti
Sarasota Foot Care Center