Three Things Parents Need To Know About Spondylolysis

Health & Medical Blog

Gymnastics is a fun extra-curricular activity for children, but it can lead to many painful injuries, including spondylolysis. Spondylolysis is a fracture or defect of the pars interarticularis, a part of the spinal vertebrae. Here are three things parents need to know about spondylolysis.

How does spondylolysis occur?

Spondylolysis is often caused by a stress fracture to the pars interarticularis. This is a thin piece of bone that connects the spine's facet joints. The facet joints are the small joints—located both behind and between the vertebrae—that help to stabilize the spine and keep it from bending too far. Without the facet joints, the spine could bend far enough to damage the nerves or spinal cord.

Some gymnastics moves will put a lot of strain on your child's spine. If you've ever watched your child's gymnastics class during practice, you'll have seen the extreme back flexibility the sport requires. Moves like back walkovers, bridges, back flips, kickovers and others push the spine to its limits, and over time, the hours of practice take their toll on the spine. After enduring this stress, the delicate pars interarticularis could develop tiny cracks known as stress fractures; this is spondylolysis.

What are the symptoms of spondylolysis?

If your child develops spondylolysis, they'll tell you that their lower back hurts. This pain may be severe and will get worse when they perform back extension exercises, like bridges or other similar maneuvers.

While lower back pain is common among young athletes, don't assume that it's just a pulled muscle or a sign of overexertion; back pain in gymnasts should always be evaluated by a doctor due to the extreme demands the sport places on the spine.

How is spondylolysis treated?

Most of the time, this injury can be treated with conservative methods. Studies have shown that 84% of children with spondylolysis will have a good outcome after one year of conservative treatment. This treatment may involve the use of a back brace to stabilize the spine for as long as six months.

Physiotherapy is also an important part of the treatment for spondylolysis. These exercises will include gymnastics-specific exercises like abdominal and back exercises, as well as stretching of both the hips and the hamstrings.

If your child still has back pain after these treatments, they may need to have surgery. During surgery, the fractured pars interarticularis will be fused together with either bone grafting material or a metal wire.

If your child is complaining of lower back pain after gymnastics practice, they may have spondylolysis and should be seen by a doctor. To find out more, speak with someone like Kitsap Children's Clinic LLP.


2 June 2016

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