Background: Ice hockey players have a high incidence of lumbar spine disorders; however, there is no evidence in the literature to guide the treatment of an ice hockey player with a herniated lumbar disc. Purpose: To determine the performance-based outcomes in professional National Hockey League (NHL) athletes with a lumbar disc herniation after either nonsurgical or surgical treatment. Study Design: Descriptive epidemiological study. Methods: Athletes in the NHL with a lumbar disc herniation were identified through team injury reports and archives on public record. The return-to-play rate, games played per season, points per game, and performance score for each player were determined before and after the diagnosis of a lumbar disc herniation. Statistical analysis was used to compare preinjury and postinjury performance measures for players treated with either nonsurgical or surgical treatment. Results: A total of 87 NHL players met the inclusion criteria; 31 underwent nonoperative care, 48 underwent a discectomy, and 8 underwent a single-level fusion. The return-to-play rate for all players was 85%. There was a significant decrease in performance in all players after a lumbar disc herniation in games played per season, points scored per game, and performance score. A comparison of the posttreatment results for the nonsurgical and surgical patient groups revealed no significant difference in performance measures. Notably, the lumbar fusion group did not show a decrease in games played per season or performance score after surgery, likely secondary to a small sample size. Conclusion: National Hockey League players with a lumbar disc herniation have a high return-to-play rate regardless of the type of treatment; however, performance-based outcomes may decrease compared with preinjury levels. The study data suggest that a lumbar fusion is compatible with a return to play in the NHL, which is in contrast to other professional sports.
- ice hockey
- lumbar disc herniation
- lumbar spine
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
- Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation