A fracture is a break in a bone. Your child has broken one or more of their metatarsal bones, which are the bones between the ankles and toes. The metatarsals help with balance when standing and walking.
In most cases these type of fractures are minor in nature and can be treated by wearing a pair of firm-fitting shoes. Occasionally, if the fracture has moved slightly, a walking boot or cast will be used to mobilise the affected limb.
Care at home
- Give your child pain-relieving medications such as Panadol and Nurofen regularly for the first few days. This can then be reduced as the pain settles.
- Elevate the affected limb above level of heart to reduce swelling. You may also use ice but be sure to cover it and only use for 10 to 15 minutes at a time, every one to two hours to prevent skin damage.
- Maintain position in firm fitting shoe, or if needed walking boot, for three to four weeks.
- Encourage movement of toes and ankle.
Returning to normal activities
A fractured metatarsal generally takes three to four weeks to heal to a strength which is strong enough for normal activities. However at this stage the bone healing has still not reached full strength so sporting activities should be limited to non-weight-bearing sports such as swimming. Your child should not return to contact sports until four to six weeks after injury to reduce chance of re-fracture.
In the majority of cases no further follow-up or X-rays are required for metatarsal fractures. Some displaced fractures (when the bone snaps and moves out of alignment) may require a review in a fracture clinic in seven to 10 days but most require no follow-up unless problems persist after three to four weeks. In this case, a review by your GP is all that is needed.
When to seek help
Your child should be reviewed by a doctor or nurse practitioner if they continue to have pain despite pain relief, or their pain increases.
Queensland Children’s Hospital
Level 1, 501 Stanley Street, South Brisbane
t: 07 3068 1111 (general enquiries)
In an emergency, always call 000.
If it’s not an emergency but you have any concerns, contact 13 Health (13 43 2584). Qualified staff will give you advice on who to talk to and how quickly you should do it. You can phone 24 hours a day, seven days a week.