Spondylolysis in Adolescent Athletes

Sports are a great way for kids to make new friends, learn valuable life lessons about winning and losing, and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Winning a high school state football championship can give you lifelong memories.  Unfortunately, it can also cause injuries. Some experts put the number of sports injuries at 4.4 million adolescent athletes affected a year.

One of these conditions is spondylolysis, or “Lysis.” This is an acute stress fracture caused when there is a disconnect between vertebrae, which are the bones that make the spinal column; it is a combination of the Greek words “spondylos” (spine) and “lysis” (loosening).  Spondylolysis is a result from a weakened pars interarticularis, the thin piece of bone that connects the upper and lower segments of the facet joints (they link vertebrae to allow spinal movement).

Spondylolysis affects 3 to 7 percent of Americans, and it’s more common in adolescent athletes that play sports that cause a lot of stress on the lower back or hyperextension of the spine. Some of the sports that cause spondylolysis are:

  • Football
  • Hockey
  • Weightlifting
  • Gymnastics

The most common symptom for spondylolysis is lower back pain, and this is made worse with exercise. This symptom usually appears during a teenager’s growth spurt. A lot of times adolescent athletes will mistake spondylolysis for a muscle strain.

Unfortunately, this can lead to more serious conditions later in life for those who leave this condition untreated. One example is when one or more vertebrae slips out of place, which is known as spondylolisthesis. There are several different types of spondylolisthesis and various grades of slippage. This can require surgery later in life.

If you are an adolescent athlete experiencing pain, we recommend visiting Atlantic Spine Specialists in a timely manner. All treatment plans will aim to reduce a patient’s pain, allow the acute stress fracture to heal, and return a person to as close as their pre-injury condition as possible. Treatment will make it so that the only pain you feel is the nostalgia for your glory days.

Schedule a consultation with Atlantic Spine Specialists’ board certified spine specialists Dr. Carl Giordano or Dr. Richard Nachwalter by calling (973) 971-3500. Visit Atlantic Spine Specialists online by clicking here (atlanticspinespecialists.com) or come to our office at 131 Madison Avenue, Suite 110, Morristown, NJ 07960.