We’ve all heard this famous saying while at the gym, in movies, and from friends. But spine or back pain is a separate kind of pain – a serious pain that can mean serious complications. Athletes, especially those who are professionally training daily often force themselves to work through inflammation as they age. Certain inflammations like slight disc herniations are common and generally can be rectified with medication and conservative management. However, doctors encourage athletes to rest and to not work through the pain. Rest provides us with quicker recovery and better outcomes. Remember, your body needs exercise to strengthen the spine, but it also needs rest too. Don’t forget to take a breather!
Sciatica is a result of pain that begins in the lower back and radiates downward, into the legs – sometimes in only one leg or both. While no athlete would ever wish this pain on themselves, cyclists have become familiar with this painful phenomena. With extreme demands on the physical form in Olympic events, athletes suffering from unpredictable spine problems (like acute sciatica) often will push through this pain. This may work for them, a testament to their physical and mental prowess, but is not encouraged for normal patients who should seek rest and medication.
With the Rio Olympics in full swing from the track to the pool, athletes are pushing their bodies to the fullest extent possible. Unfortunately, injuries can still occur. Disc herniations can plague even the best athletes. Severe herniations are seen in sports involving high stress loads to the spine like weightlifting. Thankfully, injuries like a disc herniation can be quelled with a microdiscectomy. In a microdiscectomy, small incisions are made in key points for the surgeon to enter the problem area and correct it. Because these athletes are in great physical shape, their recovery time is shorter than a normal person. This is why it is important to keep in shape and achieve a healthy lifestyle.
Do you have a labor-intensive job? You might be at a higher risk of developing radiculopathy. Read more here in Dr. Anthony Leone’s Knowledge Center.
Patients who work in physically demanding environments or patients who play contact sports have a higher risk of developing radiculopathy. This is because excessive or strenuous movement of the spine can result in compression of the spinal cord and nerves. Patients who also have a family history or who have other spinal disorders are prone to developing radiculopathy.
Please peruse the Knowledge Center to learn more about sports-related injuries to the spine.
Ligament-related sprains in the spine often manifest as a result of sports injuries. Prevention of spine-related injuries in athletes are linked to maintaining strength and wide ranges of motion (flexibility) through proper conditioning both on the field and off. Athletes should report any abnormal pain as failure to do so increases the risk of more severe complications.
Sports athletes are susceptible to spinal hyperextension – especially those playing football (linemen) as well as gymnasts because these sports involve movements where hyperextension of the spine can often occur. These injuries seem to be targeted in the lumbar region of the spine most frequently and can lead to additional complications including pain lasting for weeks.
Neurapraxia is often related to sports injuries. Football players making direct “head down” contact with one another increase the possibility of high axial loading to the cervical spinal column. Treatment for neurapraxia is generally “supportive” – meaning treating the injury as early as possible to curtail the development of the problem area. Sometimes treatment will include surgery to alleviate the target area. This is typically seen much more in adults than in children, where neurapraxia is less common.
When localized trauma is concentrated to the cervical spinal cord, this injury is referred to as neurapraxia. This trauma can be induced by over extension, flexion of a limb beyond it’s normal limits, or “head down” contact involving the head (often seen in football). The symptoms of neurapraxia typically last for a short time but can be persistent for two days or more.
More information on spinal injuries in children can be found here, in the Knowledge Center.
Diving injuries are a significant cause of spinal cord injuries in older children and adolescents. Recreational diving accounts for 70% of all acute sports-related spinal cord injuries. Most diving injuries are the result of direct head impact on the pool bottom. In spite of these alarming statistics, most children receive little or no instruction in proper diving techniques.¹
¹Garfin MD, Steven. Orthopaedic Knowledge Update : Spine. Rosemont: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, 1997.