How a Jones Fracture Can Ruin a Sunday Afternoon

Is a Jones fracture a special kind of foot fracture and can it be treated without surgery?

Do you dedicate a good part of your weekends to either being in the stands of your favorite football, basketball or other sports team or wearing your exorbitantly expensive official jersey while watching with friends from the comfort of your own couch? Or are you more likely to commandeer the TV remote on a Sunday afternoon to watch a movie on Netflix? 

Either way, whether you are a fan or not, one thing we can all agree on is that today’s athletes do things that seem almost superhuman! You can argue all day about Zack Vines being better at dunking the ball than Michael Jordan was, but they both take your breath away as they seem to literally fly toward the basket. And it can be almost painful to put yourself in the shoes of an NFL defender watching a running back head right toward you and know they are going to do their special magic and radically change direction at the last moment. 

All of this is incredibly entertaining to watch as a spectator, but the stress placed on the body of these athletes is extreme. A good example of that is that radical change in direction that leaves a lot of defensive players looking foolish as the runner, who was almost in their grasp, suddenly shifts to the left or right and runs right past them. This has the fans cheering, but what is it doing to that small bone on the outside of the foot that took the brunt of the tremendous amount of force required to make that move? 

What Is a Jones Fracture?

The foot has five bones, the metatarsals, located between the toes and the ankle. A Jones fracture, also sometimes called a Dancer’s fracture, refers to a fracture to the fifth metatarsal, which is the bone that runs along the outside of the foot and connects to the little or “pinky” toe. The first metatarsal, the one that connects to the big toe, typically bears most of the bodyweight and movement stress, but it is the fifth metatarsal that is affected by the amount of force required to make that sudden directional shift in our football example. 

One of the reasons that Jones fractures are significant is that the particular area in which they occur has a low blood supply. This can contribute to a much longer period of time for healing or even that the injury does not ever completely heal. While this would create difficulties for anyone, for professional athletes it can seriously alter or even end their careers.  

Causes and Treatment

You don’t have to be an athlete to suffer a Jones fracture. Anyone can end up with this condition as the result of some sort of trauma, like a sharp twist to the foot, or from overuse or repetitive stress. Dancers are prone to fractures of the fifth metatarsal. In fact, the name itself came from the British surgeon, Robert Jones, suffering this injury during an evening of dancing. 

For most people, the initial choice at least, will be to opt for non-surgical treatment. This will involve wearing some sort of cast and keeping all weight off of the foot for approximately two months. 

Most athletes, however, tend to choose surgery to repair a Jones fracture. This typically includes the use of a plate, rod, screws or possibly a bone graft. While more extreme, recovery can still take less time than immobilization alone and is considered more reliable.

Which Is the Better Treatment Option?

All types of surgery carry some level of risk. Only you, in consultation with your trusted orthopedic surgeon, can decide which is the better option. Some of the factors that your surgeon will have you consider include:

  • your age and overall health
  • how severe the break is
  • your lifestyle and level of activity

If you have questions about a fracture or about any other foot or ankle concerns, Dr. Christopher Hubbard is a board-certified Orthopedic Surgeon with Ortho-Care Wayne in Bergen County New Jersey and is the former Chief of the Foot and Ankle Service at Mount Sinai Beth Israel in NYC.

 To schedule an appointment, or if you just have questions, please use our convenient online contact form by clicking here.