JOURNAL ARTICLE
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Pathogenesis of Fifth Metatarsal Fractures in College Soccer Players.

BACKGROUND: The pathogenesis of fifth metatarsal stress fractures remains uncertain.

HYPOTHESIS: Physical characteristics and environmental factors, which have received limited attention in the literature thus far, might be involved in the development of fifth metatarsal stress fractures.

STUDY DESIGN: Case-control study; Level of evidence, 3.

METHODS: To test the study hypothesis, a medical examination and survey of the living environment of collegiate soccer players was conducted and correlated with the existence of fifth metatarsal stress fractures. The survey and measurements were conducted in 273 male athletes from the same college soccer team between 2005 and 2013. A medical examination comprising assessment of stature, body weight, body mass index, foot-arch height ratio, toe-grip strength, quadriceps angle, leg-heel angle, functional reach test, single-leg standing time with eyes closed, straight-leg raise angle, finger-floor distance, heel-buttock distance, ankle joint range of motion, and a general joint laxity test were performed once a year, along with a questionnaire survey. The survey was also repeated when a fifth metatarsal stress fracture was diagnosed. The study participants were separated into a fifth metatarsal stress fracture injury group and a noninjury group. The measurement items and survey items were compared, and the association between the factors and the presence or absence of injuries was analyzed.

RESULTS: Toe-grip strength was significantly weaker in the injury group compared with the noninjury group, suggesting that weak toe-grip is associated with fifth metatarsal stress fracture (P < .05). In addition, fifth metatarsal stress fractures were more common in the nondominant leg (P < .05). Between-group comparisons of the other items showed no statistically significant differences.

CONCLUSION: The association between weak toe-grip strength and fifth metatarsal fracture suggests that weak toe-grip may lead to an increase in the load applied onto the lateral side of the foot, resulting in stress fracture. The finding of stress fracture being more common in the nondominant leg needs further study.

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