Purpose: Tibial stress fracture is a common overuse running injury that results from the interplay of repetitive mechanical loading and bone strength. This research project aimed to determine whether female runners with a history of tibial stress fracture (TSF) differ in ground reaction force (GRF) parameters during running, regional bone density, and tibial bone geometry from those who have never sustained a stress fracture (NSF).
Methods: Thirty-six female running athletes (13 TSF; 23 NSF) ranging in age from 18 to 44 yr were recruited for this cross-sectional study. The groups were well matched for demographic, training, and menstrual parameters. A force platform measured selected GRF parameters (peak and time to peak for vertical impact and active forces, and horizontal braking and propulsive forces) during overground running at 4.0 m.s.(-1). Lumbar spine, proximal femur, and distal tibial bone mineral density were assessed by dual energy x-ray absorptiometry. Tibial bone geometry (cross-sectional dimensions and areas, and second moments of area) was calculated from a computerized tomography scan at the junction of the middle and distal thirds.
Results: There were no significant differences between the groups for any of the GRF, bone density, or tibial bone geometric parameters (P > 0.05). Both TSF and NSF subjects had bone density levels that were average or above average compared with a young adult reference range. Factor analysis followed by discriminant function analysis did not find any combinations of variables that differentiated between TSF and NSF groups.
Conclusion: These findings do not support a role for GRF, bone density, or tibial bone geometry in the development of tibial stress fractures, suggesting that other risk factors were more important in this cohort of female runners.