Low Back Pain in Young Athletes

Low Back Pain in Young Athletes
Low Back Pain in Young Athletes

Perhaps your gymnast mentioned a nagging ache in their lower back that won’t go away, or you’ve noticed your baseball-playing kiddo rubbing their lower back a lot lately. Today, they asked you where you keep the Advil, and they’ve never done that before. Naturally, aches and pains in young athletes are to be expected, and most resolve on their own in a few days. However, when could lower back pain in a young athlete indicate something more serious is going on?

Spondylolysis in the Young Athlete

Spondylolysis is a fracture of the spine and is a common cause of lower back pain in young athletes. Spondylolysis occurs most frequently in the lower back at what are referred to as the lumbar levels of the spine. Each vertebra has a section called the pars where spondylolysis often occurs. The pars is a fragile area of the spine that can be irritated or injured with repetitive movements.

What causes spondylolysis?

Spondylosis can happen during activities that repeatedly impact or stress the lower back. Additionally, activities that cause repetitive hyperextension and rotation across the lumbar spine can cause spondylosis.

When should I be concerned?

Many cases of spondylolysis don’t cause symptoms and don’t need treatment, but that’s not always the case. If a young athlete has persistent lower back pain for more than a week, it’s a good idea to get a medical evaluation to rule out a serious cause of the pain. In some cases of spondylolysis, a young athlete may complain of a dull pain that becomes sharp with movement, or pain that worsens after more intensive activities. The athlete may also report relief of pain after rest and avoidance of activity. The low back area may be tender to the touch.

Why a Clinical Evaluation is Important

Spondylolysis can only be diagnosed by a physician. A thorough clinical and diagnostic imaging evaluation must be conducted to identify spondylolysis. This is important because sometimes spondylolysis events can lead to a more serious condition called spondylolisthesis, in which a vertebra shifts out of alignment with the other vertebrae. When left untreated, spondylolisthesis can result in even more severe spine issues. A physician specializing in back pain in the young athlete will be able to correctly diagnose the underlying issue and provide the best treatment plan.

If your young athlete has signs or symptoms of low back pain, schedule an appointment today with a spine specialist at Orthopedic + Fracture.