Don’t let lower back injuries take you down for the count

Don’t let lower back injuries take you down for the count

       
ROSEMONT, Ill. (July 5, 2017)—Nearly one in three competitive athletes experiences low back pain. According to a literature review in the July 2017 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, lower (lumbar) back pain is a commonly reported symptom among the general population; however, low back pain among elite athletes who play varsity or professional sports requires additional important considerations.
 
“Competitive players stress their lumbar spine for hundreds of hours a month, thereby predisposing themselves to specific injuries that should be recognized by healthcare practitioners,” says Wellington K. Hsu, MD, lead review author and orthopaedic spine surgeon at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. The human spine is made up of 24 bones, called vertebrae, stacked on top of one another. In between each of these bones are flat, round disks with a tough, flexible outer exterior and a soft, jelly-like center that act as shock absorbers when walking or running.
 
Athletes are at greater risk of developing lower back conditions when: According to Dr. Hsu, nonsurgical therapy should be the first-line treatment in all athletes with lower back conditions because successful recovery rates from rehabilitation protocols are high. Nonsurgical treatment options may include medications to reduce inflammation, psychological support to establish an expectation for recovery and the rehabilitation process, and/or physical therapy to focus on core and back muscle strengthening and flexibility. Surgical management of lower back injuries among elite athletes is typically considered after all nonsurgical treatment has failed. “Expectations regarding surgical outcomes should be tailored for elite athletes depending on sport, and to sport-specific demands” says Dr. Hsu.
 
After surgery, recovery time, performance, and career lengths of elite athletes depend on the sport and its physical demands. As with any persons with a lower back injury, elite athletes should complete a rehabilitation program and be individually assessed for medical clearance before returning to work or play.
  
 
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Disclosures
From the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, Ill.
 
Dr. Hsu or an immediate family member is a member of a speakers’ bureau or has made paid presentations on behalf of AO North America; serves as a paid consultant to AO North America, Bacterin, Bioventus, CeramTec, Globus Medical, Graftys, LifeNet, Medtronic, Pioneer Medical, Relievant Medsystems, SI-Bone, Stryker Spine, and DePuy Synthes; has received research or institutional support from Medtronic; and serves as a board member, owner, officer, or committee member of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, the Cervical Spine Research Society, the Lumbar Spine Research Society, and the North American Spine Society. Neither Dr. Jenkins nor any immediate family member has received anything of value from or has stock or stock options held in a commercial company or institution related directly or indirectly to the subject of this article.
 
J Am Acad Orthop Surg 2017;00:1-10 DOI: 10.5435/JAAOS-D-16-00135

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