Don’t brush off back pain as “no big deal.”
Here’s what you should know about it.
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Strains and Sprains Strains and sprains are the most common back injuries among young athletes. Fortunately, these soft tissue injuries usually heal on their own over time with proper care.
If you’re suffering from a strain or sprain, take a break from your activity, ice the area, rest, and consider physical therapy. Don’t play through the pain – this can lead to a more serious injury.
Stress Fractures A stress fracture in the spine, called spondylolysis, is most common in sports requiring athletes to repeatedly arch or extend the lower back, such as gymnastics, diving, wrestling, weightlifting, and football (lineman, specifically).
If a stress fracture worsens, it can lead to a vertebra slipping out of its place onto a bone below – a condition called spondylolisthesis. In some cases, surgery will be required to correct the condition.
The pain of spondylolysis and spondylolisthesis can mimic that of strains and sprains, so it’s important to see a sports medicine physician or orthopaedist if you are suffering from chronic back pain. If your back pain lasts longer than two weeks, it’s imperative to seek medical care.
Protecting Your Back Back injuries are often tied to weak or tense muscles. Here are some tips to prevent this:
- Don’t underestimate your warmup. Stretching your lower and upper back muscles before diving into play can go a long way in minimizing your risk of injury.
- Strengthen your core. Strengthening the muscles surrounding your back – such as the abs, upper legs, and glutes – can help protect the back muscles.
- Mix it up. Young athletes should not specialize in one sport before they reach late adolescence.
- Take it easy. If you’ve hurt your back, take a few days off. Treat your back with P.R.I.C.E. (protection, rest, ice, compression, elevation) before returning to play.