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Dancer's Fracture: The Painful Foot Injury Plaguing Performers and Athletes Alike

Updated: Apr 18, 2023

Photo created by Author using Wonder Digital Arts

In simple layperson's terms, foot anatomy refers to the structure and composition of the human foot. The foot comprises several bones, joints, ligaments, muscles, and tendons that work together to support the body's weight, maintain balance, and facilitate movement. The foot is divided into three central regions: the hind, mid, and forefoot. The hindfoot includes the heel and ankle bones, the midfoot contains the arch, and the forefoot consists of the toes and ball of the foot. Understanding the basic foot anatomy is essential for maintaining proper foot health and preventing foot-related injuries or conditions.

The fifth metatarsal diaphysis is a long bone located in the fifth toe region of the foot. It is the middle portion of the fifth metatarsal and is responsible for providing structural support and facilitating foot movement. The diaphysis is characterized by a cylindrical shape with a smooth surface and a hollow center. The bone is made up of compact bone tissue, which is dense and robust, and contains a marrow cavity that is filled with bone marrow. The diaphysis is also composed of the periosteum, a thin layer of tissue covering the bone's outer surface, and the endosteum, which lines the inner surface of the marrow cavity. The fifth metatarsal diaphysis is prone to fractures, particularly in athletes and individuals who engage in high-impact activities. Proper diagnosis and treatment of these injuries are crucial to prevent long-term complications and ensure optimal recovery.

Fractures of the diaphysis can be acute or stress fractures. Because these fractures have very different treatments and prognoses, accurate diagnosis is essential.

Diagnosis is with x-rays. Treatment depends on the location of the fracture. Pain, swelling, and tenderness are usually well-localized to the fracture site. Diagnosis of fractures of the 5th metatarsal is based on anteroposterior, lateral, and oblique foot x-rays. Fractures of the 5th metatarsal diaphysis can be acute fractures or stress fractures. Acute diaphyseal fractures usually result from direct trauma, while stress fractures typically occur due to overuse.

After extreme dancing, the dancer in the emergency room had a sudden onset of pain in his right foot. After examining the x-rays, the doctor noticed a fracture of the 5th metatarsal diaphysis and diagnosed it as a Dancer's Fracture. The doctor advised the dancer to reduce his activities and wear a cast for six weeks to heal the fracture appropriately. He prescribed a few painkillers to help the dancer manage his pain. The dancer was advised to return in two weeks to get his cast changed and check on the healing progress. The dancer followed the doctor's instructions and reduced his activities. However, he was still feeling pain and worried that his career as a dancer might end. He decided to go to physical therapy.


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