When a break occurs in the bone that runs along the outside of the foot, from the baby or pinkie toe to the ankle, it may be a Jones fracture. Named after Sir Robert Jones, the first orthopedic surgeon who reported and treated the injury, the fracture occurs between the base and shaft of the fifth metatarsal bone in the foot. This type of break may result from either an acute injury or repetitive stress. When a Jones fracture occurs, the foot may bruise and swell, and it will be painful to put weight on it. Because this area of the foot receives less blood than other regions, a Jones fracture can be difficult to heal.
When a Jones fracture is diagnosed, appropriate treatment depends on several factors, such as the severity of the break, the overall health of the afflicted individual, the individual’s age, and the individual’s level of physical activity.
The most conservative treatment involves wearing a non-weight-bearing cast over the injured foot for about six to eight weeks, until the break heals. Typically, a patient will use crutches to keep weight off of the foot during recovery.
Unfortunately, this may not be the best treatment for everyone. Jones fractures can be slow to heal, and there is a risk of reinjury. In cases where a full recovery in the desired timeframe is unlikely with immobilization alone, a care provider may recommend surgery. Generally, surgery offers a shorter recovery time and better results for active individuals, especially athletes. For example, a 2012 study of Jones fractures found that 21% of fractures treated without surgery failed to successfully knit back together. However, when fractures were treated with a surgical procedure involving the placement of a screw in the bone, 97% healed completely.
Surgery for Jones fractures is often performed on an outpatient basis, with local or general anesthesia. A small incision is made to access the bone, so that it can be aligned using screws, rods, plates, wires, and pins to promote healing. This surgical hardware squeezes the ends of the broken bone together, allowing them to knit together more easily and precisely. Generally, the orthopedic surgeon uses an X-ray machine to ensure proper placement of hardware. In cases of reinjury, or in instances where repeated fractures have failed to heal, a bone graft may be required. During a bone graft, the damaged bone is removed and replaced with a graft, which is secured with a screw. That graft is eventually absorbed by the surrounding bone, effectively creating new, stronger bone.
Typically, surgical hardware remains in place after the bone heals. This hardware helps the bone to twist and bend normally after it heals. If the healing process proceeds slowly, a bone healing stimulator may be used. This tool applies a weak electrical current to the site of fracture, activating the healing process.
Recovery time for a Jones fracture depends on the severity of the break, the patient’s overall health, and the chosen treatment. This type of fracture typically disrupts blood flow around the bone, and as a result, it may take longer to heal than other bone fractures.
Generally, non-surgical or conservative treatments take a minimum of six to eight weeks, longer if the break is severe or the individual is in poor health. The recovery time for a surgical repair is shorter on average but still varies widely. In most cases, the patient will have to avoid putting weight on the injured foot for at least six weeks, and in some, a walking boot may be required for several months after that. A surgeon can make personalized recommendations about participation in sports and other physical activities. However, studies have found that athletes who return to intense physical activity too soon after a Jones fracture often experience reinjury.
“Everything you need to know about Jones fracture,” Medical News Today, https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/315039.
“Jones Fracture,” Healthline, https://www.healthline.com/health/jones-fracture
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