Spondylosis: Stress Fractures of the Spine in Contact Sports


Stress Fractures are a common occurrence in competitive athletes. Spondylosis is a specific type of stress fracture that can develop in the vertebrae of the spine. Typically, this injury will occur in the lumbar area of the spine. This injury can cause a great deal of lower back pain. While spondylosis can develop for no reason in about 5% of youth, it is commonly associated with repeated stress on the lower back.


There can be a variety of reasons for developing spondylosis, sidelining the individual for quite some time. Trauma to the lumbar spine from a fall, a hit in a contact sport, or overuse are some of the most common causes for this type of stress fracture. What may develop as a very small fracture can continue to worsen as the athlete attempts to play through the pain. Additional trauma to the fracture can lead to further injury.


Spondylosis is a condition that can be tricky to identify. Because some of the symptoms can mimic other issues, it can be easy to put off seeking and evaluation and waiting for conditions to improve. The following are often symptoms of spondylosis:

  • Lower back pain that may mimic a muscle strain
  • Pain the the buttocks area
  • Pain the the thigh region
  • Tenderness or stiffness in the lower back
  • A sensation of unexplained tightness in the hamstrings

Treatment for Spondylosis

Spondylosis can be diagnosed with the use of x-ray, MRI or a CT scan. Once Spondylosis has been diagnosed, it is important to follow the directions of a physician such as an orthopaedic surgeon fellowship trained in spine. The most challenging part of the treatment is having patience and letting the fracture heal. This can be difficult for young, competitive athletes. The following treatment strategies are often effective in healing spondylosis without surgical intervention:

  • Rest/time off from sports
  • Physical therapy
  • Core exercises approved by a certified trainer or physical therapist
  • Training to increase flexibility
  • Over the counter medications to aid in pain relief and swelling

If your adolescent is suffering from lower back pain that is interfering with daily activities or participating in sports, it could be beneficial to see an orthopaedic surgeon to assess for any issues with the spine. If a stress fracture is the culprit, it is important to know as soon as possible to avoid any further damage.

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