Study design: Resident's case problem.
Background: A 19-year-old female, currently enrolled in a military training program, sought medical care for a twisting injury to her right knee. The patient reported her symptoms as similar to an injury she incurred 1 year previously while enrolled in the same military program. The patient's past medical history included a nondepressed fracture of the medial tibial plateau and complete tear of the deep fibers of the medial collateral ligament.
Diagnosis: Physical exam revealed nonlocalized anterior and medial knee pain without evidence of internal derangement. Initial knee and tibia radiographs were unremarkable. Referral for orthopedic physician evaluation resulted in concurrence with the therapist's diagnosis and plan of care, and the patient was allowed to continue with limited physical training demands. Despite periods of rest, the patient's symptoms progressively worsened upon attempts to resume running. The examining therapist referred the patient for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) due to the patient's worsening symptoms, normal radiographs, and concern for a proximal tibia stress fracture. MRI revealed a severe proximal tibial metaphysis stress fracture.
Discussion: Stress fractures are commonly encountered injuries in individuals subjected to increased physical training demands. Early evaluation may not yield well-localized findings and may mimic other conditions. Nonmusculoskeletal conditions should be considered in the management of patients with stress fractures. This resident's case problem illustrates the importance of serial physical examinations and collaboration with other healthcare practitioners in the comprehensive assessment and management of a patient with a severe stress fracture.