Stress fractures of the ribs and upper extremities: causation, evaluation, and management

Sports Med. 2013 Aug;43(8):665-74. doi: 10.1007/s40279-013-0048-7.


Stress fractures are common troublesome injuries in athletes and non-athletes. Historically, stress fractures have been thought to predominate in the lower extremities secondary to the repetitive stresses of impact loading. Stress injuries of the ribs and upper extremities are much less common and often unrecognized. Consequently, these injuries are often omitted from the differential diagnosis of rib or upper extremity pain. Given the infrequency of this diagnosis, few case reports or case series have reported on their precipitating activities and common locations. Appropriate evaluation for these injuries requires a thorough history and physical examination. Radiographs may be negative early, requiring bone scintigraphy or MRI to confirm the diagnosis. Nonoperative and operative treatment recommendations are made based on location, injury classification, and causative activity. An understanding of the most common locations of upper extremity stress fractures and their associated causative activities is essential for prompt diagnosis and optimal treatment.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Arm Injuries* / classification
  • Arm Injuries* / diagnosis
  • Arm Injuries* / therapy
  • Athletic Injuries* / classification
  • Athletic Injuries* / diagnosis
  • Athletic Injuries* / therapy
  • Diagnostic Imaging
  • Fracture Fixation / methods*
  • Fractures, Stress* / classification
  • Fractures, Stress* / diagnosis
  • Fractures, Stress* / therapy
  • Humans
  • Rib Fractures* / classification
  • Rib Fractures* / diagnosis
  • Rib Fractures* / therapy
  • Trauma Severity Indices