The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

Tough Break: Fractured Navicular Bone

Posted by on Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

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If you’re a fan of the Boston Red Sox, the news last week that Cody Ross was going on the disabled list with a broken navicular bone was just one more reason to believe this season isn’t meant to be. If you are not a fan of the Red Sox, you may have just laughed. Nothing personal, Cody, you’re just a pawn in the schadenfreude wars. ESPN Fantasy Sports injury expert Stephania Bell wrote that Ross will likely be out for a few months (six weeks to heal, followed by some rehab).

So what is a navicular bone? Does it have anything to do with navigating? No, not unless you have a compass in your foot (if you do, fine; I’m not judging). The navicular bone is one of the seven tarsal bones that form the ankle. Despite being included in that group, though, the navicular bone is located closer to the midfoot, below what you may think of when you think of your ankle and before the long metatarsal bones. It’s on the inside facing side of your foot, above where the instep begins. The navicular bone is one of the bones that holds the arteries that run through the foot.

It sounds important! How do you injure it? Most people get stress fractures of the navicular bone. No, not that kind of stress, the kind that comes from excess weight or pressure on something (then again, I guess all stresses are the same). Athletes who run and jump a lot, such as hurdlers, high jumpers and basketball players often suffer navicular stress fractures. Others who make sudden, explosive movements such as sprinters, also tend to have navicular fractures. The abovementioned Ross is kind of an unusual case in that he just outright broke his navicular bone when he fouled a ball off his foot. Ouch.

How do you know you have a navicular bone stress fracture? It’s actually tough to diagnose–at first Ross was thought to be okay until he had an MRI. Most of us aren’t highly paid athletes, though, who have people fussing over are every twinge, though, so you would most likely have to rely on these symptoms to determine if you have a navicular bone stress fracture:

  • an ache in your midfoot;
  • pain that occurs when you exercise and disappears when you rest;
  • pain when someone presses on the area of the navicular bone (the “N spot”).

The best way to get an accurate diagnosis, though, is to see a podiatrist at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine (212.996.1900). An x-ray probably won’t be enough to tell, so you’ll likely need a bone scan or MRI. Once it’s clear that you do have a navicular bone stress fracture, the podiatrist can begin treatment.

And the treatment is…? You’re not going to like this: six weeks of an immobilizing cast and no weight bearing activities. After six weeks, your foot will be checked and if there’s still pain when the N spot is pressed, then two more weeks in the cast. That’s not all–rehab follows, including strengthening exercises for your foot and ankle, sports massage to the calf muscles. The gradual return to activity can take six weeks.

So yes, this is a nasty, nagging injury you want to avoid.

How can I do that? Don’t foul a ball of your navicular bone, for starters. To avoid the stress fracture, try to make sure you’re wearing the right shoes for you and what you do. If you do a lot of running and jumping, pick your surfaces carefully. Make sure your technique is correct. Cross train to give your feet a rest. Then hope for the best.

If you suspect you have a navicular bone stress fracture, or any other kind of foot or ankle issue, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine. Dr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, and Dr. Ryan Minara have helped thousands of people get back on their feet.

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If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.