Return to sports after stress fractures of the tibial diaphysis: a systematic review

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This review aims to provide information on the time taken to resume sport following tibial diaphyseal stress fractures (TDSFs).

Sources of data

A systematic search of Medline, EMBASE, CINHAL, Cochrane, Web of Science, PEDro, Sports Discus, Scopus and Google Scholar was performed using the keywords ‘tibial’, ‘tibia’, ‘stress’, ‘fractures’, ‘athletes’, ‘sports’, ‘non-operative’, ‘conservative’, ‘operative’ and ‘return to sport’.

Areas of agreement

Twenty-seven studies were included: 16 reported specifically on anterior TDSFs and 5 on posterior TDSFs. The general principles were to primarily attempt non-operative management for all TDSFs and to consider operative intervention for anterior TDSFs that remained symptomatic after 3–6 months. Anterior TDSFs showed a prolonged return to sport.

Areas of controversy

The best time to return to sport and the optimal management modalities for TDSFs remain undefined.

Growing points

Management of TDSFs should include a full assessment of training methods, equipment and diet to modify pre-disposing factors.

Areas timely for developing research

Future prospective studies should aim to establish the optimal treatment modalities for TDSFs.

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