Spine Injuries in Young Athletes

As temperatures rise and spring takes hold, the activity of young athletes increases. Many parents encourage such activity; sports not only promote a healthy lifestyle but help our youth develop confidence and lifelong skills as well. While there are obvious benefits to athletic activity, it is the leading cause of adolescent back injuries. It is important to be aware of the risks in order to take the right steps to prevent injury.

Common Sports-Related Back Injuries

Ligament sprains and muscle strains are the most common back injuries seen in young athletes. Ligament strains and muscle strains are often a result of overtraining without proper conditioning. The adolescent body is still developing and cannot take as much stress and repetition as a full-grown adult. Allowing the body sufficient time to rest and rebuild is important; it helps to prevent and remedy these minor injuries. However, if an athlete is consistently complaining of back pain they should be evaluated by a physician or sports medicine doctor. Sometimes what may appear to be a minor back injury can, in fact, be something more serious. For example, Spondylosis (a defect in the vertebrae of the spine) and spondylolisthesis (where one vertebra slips relative to another) often presents itself as a common sprain or strain and requires image testing (bone scan or CT scan) to diagnose.

Youth who participate in high-contact sports, such as football or wrestling, are at risk for a more serious spine injury known as the “stinger.” Stingers occur when the head is forced backward or to the side too quickly, which compresses nerves in the neck or overstretches them – resulting in sudden pain and a stinging sensation in one arm. In most cases, symptoms go away rather quickly, which is why many instances go unreported. However, athletes who suffer from a stinger are at a greater risk for repeat injury, and multiple stingers can result in permanent nerve damage and muscle weakness.

Tips for Preventing Injury

Here are some steps that an athlete can take to help prevent common back injuries:

  • Stretch the muscles before practices and games to increase flexibility.
  • Use proper technique. If you aren’t sure how, ask your coach for help.
  • Drink plenty of water – dehydration causes muscle fatigue and can lead to injury.
  • Switch it up! Playing the same sport throughout the year causes continuous stress on the same muscles. Playing a variety of different sports reduces the risk of overtraining.
  • Don’t spend more hours per week than your age playing sports. Make sure to take 1-2 days off a week in order to give your body ample time to rest.

If you or someone you know is suffering from persistent sports-related back pain, encourage them to see a doctor. If left untreated, back injuries in young athletes can lead to problems later in life.

Colorado Spine & Scoliosis

Choosing a spine doctor is an important decision that can be intimidating and overwhelming. Dr. Anant Kumar specializes in adult degenerative cervical, thoracic and lumbar spine surgery, pediatric spine surgery, scoliosis, and complex spinal deformity. Unlike any other orthopedic surgeon in the country, Dr. Kumar has had additional subspecialty training in Orthopedics through four fellowships, a grueling process requiring an additional five years of training.

Dr. Kumar has the ability to draw upon his extensive training and experience to find the most effective treatment for his patients. If you are looking for a skillful and reliable spine doctor in Colorado, schedule an appointment at Colorado Spine & Scoliosis today. Life’s too short to live in pain.