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Foot fractures common in osteoporosis victims

After a foot injury and subsequent surgery, Leah Hamel, 19, lost her spot and scholarship as a dance student at Julliard. After returning to her hometown of Malibu, the freshman looked into local dance departments and discovered Santa Monica College. She says, "I didn't know anything about it, but checked it out while I was healing. Now I'm in the program as a guest choreographer. I am having a blast. The department here is very much about encouraging fun along with the hard work."Photo credit: Arlene Karno.

Fabian Avellaneda

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From running and jumping in basketball to sliding in soccer or tackling in football, Santa Monica College athletic programs can make athletes susceptible to foot-related injuries.

Osteoporosis, a bone-thinning disease, is responsible for about 1.5 million bone fractures a year, and affects an estimated total of 28 million Americans, according to the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons’ website.

Many people do not realize they are even affected by osteoporosis because it is often accompanied by symptoms normally found with other bone-related diseases. It is not until the bone becomes so vulnerable and fragile that it breaks that people realize something is not right, according to

The “silent crippler” is the term that is most associated with osteoporosis because of its often dormant nature that affects athletes and students alike. While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that the greater percentage of people with this disease are men and women over the age of 50, it can affect people of all ages and ethnicities, so it is recommended to stay physically active every day.

“While the bones of the spine, hip and wrist are the most common bones to become fractured as a result of osteoporosis, metatarsals and other bones in the feet can be affected,” states the Foot Health Facts website. “In fact, some people first find out they have osteoporosis because of a fracture in the foot.”

“The bone is living and constantly regenerating itself, and when it doesn’t do that, that’s when the bone weakens and can become osteoporotic,” says Elaine Roque, a kinesiology professor at SMC.

For athletes on campus, the ankles and feet are easy targets for this crippling disease. Football players, for example, should be wary of ankle fractures, contusions and bone bruises as a result of strong impact during tackling and general rigorous training, according to the website.

In addition, volleyball players, who are also putting strain on their feet, as a result of their repetitive jumping and side-to-side movement, should also be cautious with pain in their feet.

“Most of the injuries I see are either because of overuse, shin splints, or one-time events like a student rolling their ankle during a volleyball game, landing funny after a jump, or even getting caught in someone’s, or even their own, shoes,” Roque says.

In regards to osteoporosis, Roque says she usually sees it in older students.

“A lot of them actually take my fitness class because doctors had told them that doing weight bearing exercise was good for stimulating bone growth,” she says.

There are several ways that osteoporosis and fractures in the feet can be prevented. One of the most prevalent reasons for the occurrence of osteoporosis is a lack of calcium in the diet.

“A person with high bone mass as a young adult will be more likely to have a higher bone mass later in life,” according to the CDC. “Inadequate calcium consumption and physical activity early on could result in a failure to achieve peak bone mass in adulthood.”

Experts recommend 1,000 to 1,200 milligrams of calcium a day, with notable sources including milk and dark green, leafy vegetables like broccoli.

With regards to physical ways that people can minimize their risk for osteoporosis, Roque recommends a multitude of activities including weight bearing exercises, since movement helps stimulate the bone.

“Strength training does this too with the tendons being pulled where they’re connected to the bone,” she says. “Also being on the track or on the stairs help to stimulate the bone growth.”

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