Preventing Spondylolysis in Young Athletes
Young athletes, especially gymnasts and football players, are at a higher risk of an injury called spondylolysis, a fractured vertebra in the back. It’s the most common cause of low back pain in young athletes.
Young athletes are at a higher risk of this injury because they are often still growing. A growing spine may have more points of weakness than an adult’s spine.
This injury is more common among athletes who repeatedly bend or twist their back during their sport, especially if the bending or twisting is combined with increased weight or strain on the spine. For gymnasts, bending and landing back handsprings and other movements can cause this injury. Football players often hyperextend their back when pushing against each other in the line of scrimmage and can get injured when hit while their back is extended.
Other sports, like weightlifting or tennis, can also put a young athlete at risk of spondylolysis.
How to Prevent Spondylolysis
Sports injury prevention programs can help lower your child’s risk for spondylolysis. These programs focus on building strong back and core muscles while increasing flexibility of the back.
Strong, flexible muscles can help protect the spine when it is extended. If possible, athletes should also avoid repetitive motions that cause them to overextend their back.
Since avoiding these motions is not possible in all sports, some young athletes who have spondylolysis may need to consider switching sports.
Back pain is not common in most fit young adults. If a young athlete experiences repeated back pain, they should see a medical professional for evaluation.
How to Treat Spondylolysis
Physical therapists play a key role in treating spondylolysis. A young athlete will need to take plenty of rest to allow the fractured back bone to heal. Physical therapists may also fit you for a back brace to keep it in place while it heals.
You may also need months of physical therapy stretching and exercises to build strength in the back to protect it from further injury. These stretches and exercise can help reduce pain along with over-the-counter pain medicines.
At Bon Secours In Motion, our sports medicine experts help young athletes avoid injuries, build strength and recover from conditions like spondylolysis. We provide personalized plans based on your athlete’s sports, fitness and other factors.