The role of intense athletic activity on structural lumbar abnormalities in adolescent patients with symptomatic low back pain

Gregory D. Schroeder*, Cynthia R. LaBella, Marco Mendoza, Erika L. Daley, Jason W. Savage, Alpesh A. Patel, Wellington K. Hsu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations

Abstract

Purpose: To determine if adolescent athletics increases the risk of structural abnormalities in the lumbar spine. Methods: A retrospective review of patients (ages 10–18) between 2004 and 2012 was performed. Pediatric patients with symptomatic low back pain, a lumbar spine MRI, and reported weekly athletic activity were included. Patients were stratified to an “athlete” and “non-athlete” group. Lumbar magnetic resonance and plain radiographic imaging was randomized, blinded, and evaluated by two authors for a Pfirrmann grade, herniated disc, and/or pars fracture. Results: A total of 114 patients met the inclusion criteria and were stratified into 66 athletes and 48 non-athletes. Athletes were more likely to have abnormal findings compared to non-athletes (67 vs. 40 %, respectively, p = 0.01). Specifically, the prevalence of a spondylolysis with or without a slip was higher in athletes vs. non-athletes (32 vs. 2 %, respectively, p = 0.0003); however, there was no difference in the average Pfirrmann grade (1.19 vs. 1.14, p = 0.41), percentage of patients with at least one degenerative disc (39 vs. 31 %, p = 0.41), or disc herniation (27 vs. 33 %, p = 0.43). Body mass index, smoking history, and pelvic incidence (51.5° vs. 48.7°, respectively, p = 0.41) were similar between the groups. Conclusion: Adolescents with low back pain have a higher-than-expected prevalence of structural pathology regardless of athletic activity. Independent of pelvic incidence, adolescent athletes with low back pain had a higher prevalence of spondylolysis compared to adolescent non-athletes with back pain, but there was no difference in associated disc degenerative changes or herniation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2842-2848
Number of pages7
JournalEuropean Spine Journal
Volume25
Issue number9
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 1 2016

Keywords

  • Athletes
  • Disc degeneration
  • Herniated disc
  • Pelvic incidence
  • Spondylolysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine

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