In week one of the new NFL Season, Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen has potentially suffered yet another foot injury after landing awkwardly on his foot in last Sunday’s game against the Dallas Cowboys. Olson in 2017 ended up missing 8 weeks of play over a fifth metatarsal fracture, also known as a Jones fracture. While there has not been an official announcement regarding his condition, it would make sense for him to potentially re-injury the area. After making the play, he limped off the field and was visibly upset and was later noted to be in a walking boot with crutches. His absence would be a big loss for Carolina.
Fifth metatarsal fractures are common sports-related injuries and are different than many other types of fractures because of the poor healing of the 5th metatarsal near the base of the bone. These poorly healing types of fractures are known as Jones fractures and they occur at the base of the 5th metatarsal bone in an area of decreased blood flow. Because of the decreased blood flow to the area, these fractures often take up to twice as long as a typical fracture to heal and sometimes do not heal correctly at all. For a competitive elite athlete, this can often mean missing much of a season.
In some cases, Jones fractures can be treated without surgery if the fracture fragments are well aligned, however, there is an increased risk of the bone refracturing down the line with non-surgical care. In very active people, and certainly in high-level athletes like Olsen, surgery is almost always recommended to treat Jones fractures because surgery for a Jones fracture usually allows for faster return to activity and earlier weight-bearing with lower refracture rates. Nonsurgical treatment of Jones fractures often involves significant periods of non-weight bearing, usually for 8-12 weeks in a hard cast, but occasionally they can take even longer to heal. A roll-a-bout or knee scooter may be used to help stay off the injured foot.
Surgery for a Jones fracture usually involves placing a pin or screw down the 5th metatarsal to stabilize the bone and help provide compression across the fracture. The surgery usually involves a faster return to weight-bearing activities, not only because of the compression across the fracture but also because the strength of the screw itself provides stability to the injured bone and can provide some added strength, which usually provides for a lower refracture rate later on after the surgery. Although in Olsen’s case, it appears to possibly have refractured anyway. Oftentimes, the surgery is done percutaneously, or through the skin, and does not require a significant incision. A plate could also be used for fractures that are in multiple pieces to provide even more stability to the broken bone. Plates usually would stay in long-term but may need to be removed at a later time if they are causing discomfort after the bone heals.
If you or someone you know has an injured or painful foot, or if you rolled your ankle and it just isn’t getting better or is causing significant pain, call Kansas City Foot and Ankle today at 816-943-1111 to schedule an appointment with our expert team of doctors. We are available to get your feet back to their best. We also have multiple, convenient locations to help address your needs. Call today!