In a prospective study of stress fractures among Israeli infantry recruits, the area moment of inertia of the tibia was found to have a statistically significant correlation with the incidence of tibial, femoral and total stress fractures. Recruits with "low" area moments of inertia of the tibia were found to have higher stress fracture morbidity than those with "high" area moments of inertia. The best correlation was obtained when the area moment of inertia was calculated about the AP axis of bending at a cross-sectional level corresponding to the narrowest tibial width on lateral X-rays, a point which is at the distal quarter of the tibia. This finding indicates that bending forces about the approximate AP axis are an important causal factor for tibial and many other stress fractures. The bone's bending strength, or ability to resist bending moments, as measured by the area moment of inertia, helps determine risk to stress fracture.