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Hairline Fractures – In the News!

President-Elect Joe Biden Fractures his Foot

We have written about hairline fractures before, but today they are in the news again, courtesy of our president-elect, Joe Biden!  It appears that Mr. Biden suffered a minor fracture to his foot while he was playing with his dog.  The injury was first diagnosed as a twisted ankle, but further inspections showed otherwise.  A CT scan confirmed that there were hairline fractures on Mr. Biden’s lateral and intermediate cuneiform bones, which are in the mid-foot.

What Exactly is a Hairline Fracture?

Hairline fractures are small cracks in the bones that may be difficult to identify on x-ray, but will be more visible on CT or MRI.  Athletes are very susceptible to these types of fractures, as are older adults who have decreased bone density.

These small cuneiform bones are very critical to a person’s balance and mobility.  They help form the arches of the feet, and they aid with stability.  These bones break less often than other bones in the foot, however.  Often the fractures may occur along with other injuries such as torn ligaments, which can cause additional pain, and sometimes the need for surgery.

Symptoms of a Hairline Fracture

If you have a fall or an injury of some type and you believe that it is a hairline fracture, some of the symptoms include pain that gets worse with activity and lessens with rest; swelling and tenderness in the area; and sometimes bruising.

What does Age Have to do with it?

As we age, the 26 bones in the feet are more at risk.  It is not uncommon for people over the age of 50 to suffer foot and ankle injuries while doing everyday, mundane activities.  Wear and tear over time is inevitable, therefore, as we age, we need to be very careful.  Just stepping off a curb can lead to these types of fractures if you turn your ankle or land wrong!  The loss of bone density can cause a minor accident to become major.


The first course of action after an injury of this type is apply ice and compression, such as ace wrap, and have it professionally evaluated ASAP.  X-rays and CT or MRI may be necessary to properly identify the extent of the injury.  You will likely be placed in a walking boot.  Immobilization in a boot is essential for healing, while still allowing you to bear weight and walk, although in some cases, nonweightbearing is necessary.   The boot is usually worn for 4-6 weeks.  After that, the transition to regular footwear may include using custom orthotics to provide extra support.  Physical therapy may also be prescribed and will focus on regaining balance, strengthening muscle, and increasing range of motion.  A full recovery can take up to 6 months due to discomfort and lingering soreness of the area.  However, most hairline fractures in the foot will heal without any long-term complications.

Taking Action

If you believe that you may have injured your foot or ankle, and suspect a sprain or fracture, seek immediate help from your podiatrist.  Our podiatrists at Kansas City Foot and Ankle specialize in foot and ankle injuries and have the expertise to diagnose and treat your injury appropriately.  Immediate treatment can prevent additional pain and long-term complications and get you back to your active lifestyle as quickly as possible.  Call us today!

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