Having had yet another weekend with a flare up of my original lower back injury I thought this could be a good teaching moment.
When I was 18 just before Tennis Nationals and before heading off to interview Colleges for Tennis Scholarships I experienced back pain which I had not experienced before. During a match I found my leg went numb and my lower back immobilized by muscle spasm. I pushed through the pain not wanting to be a “bad sport” by quitting during this important match.
After inappropriate treatment by a chiropractor who manipulated the spine which at the time had 2 active fractures sustained during this tournament and after years in trying to find a good Orthopaedic Surgeon, my team finally determined this was Spondylolysis and an acquired Spondylolisthesis. For parents and coaches who push their kids into doing certain movements before the spine has matured please read and learn about the spine.
Avoidance of hyperextension and repeated extension such as when learning to serve, linebackers in football, and gymnasts who arch their backs at an early age is critical for future health of the spine. Hyperextension and repeated extension should NOT occur in younger kids until the growth plates have fused (this occurs earlier in girls than in boys). Having excellent coaches with biomechanics & exercise physiology training or the hiring of a Kinesiologist to teach kids proper technique when learning their sport can play a key role in the prevention of this permanent and debilitating back injury.
This is a relatively common injury amongst young athletes and one that has ended many careers far too early and the subsequent enjoyment of sport which should last a lifetime. Parents and coaches are best advises to consult with Physiotherapists, Kinesiologists and coaches with advanced training in order to protect the health your children in sport and to allow them most importantly to develop healthy lifestyles over the course of their entire lives.
Food for thought in the world of sport. JESleeth Reg PT and former Tennis Pro
Spondylolysis and Spondylolisthesis -OrthoInfo – AAOS