Stress fracture in your shin from running may require surgery to heal

Q. I am a 20-year-old collegiate runner who has developed increasing pain in the front part of my left shin. The pain has now worsened to the point I can no longer run. I saw the team doctor who examined me and got X-rays.

The X-rays revealed I had a stress fracture in the front part of my tibia. The doctor said this fracture is unlikely to heal without surgery. He recommended putting a metal rod in my tibia for this to heal. Does this treatment sound correct and how long till I can return to run?

A. A stress fracture is an overuse injury that is caused by repetitive micro trauma exceeding the strength of a bone. Some stress fractures can heal with rest or immobilization.

However, some stress fractures do not have an adequate micro circulation to heal the injury. A stress fracture in the front of your tibia is one of this injuries that frequently requires surgery to heal.

A metal rod placed down the center of the tibia is a commonly performed surgery for this injury. The success rate of healing after this surgery is high and a return to running is usually possible within six months. If you have doubts about your injury, you can always get a second opinion.

Harlan Selesnick. M.D.
Harlan Selesnick. M.D.

Dr. Harlan Selesnick is team physician of the Miami Heat and director of Miami Sports Medicine Fellowship, Doctors Hospital. Send your questions to