Most Common Football Injuries- Lower Back Injury



Answered by Neurosurgeon Clay Cochran, M.D.


Lower back pain is a relatively rare occurrence in young athletes, with an overall incidence of between 10 and 15 percent reported. However, this varies from sport to sport with a higher incidence noted in football players, gymnasts, soccer players and dancers. It has been reported in medical literature that the majority of lower back pain is not an effect of muscular strain and this should remain a diagnosis of exclusion only. 


Structural skeletal injury is by far the most common source of lower back pain in this patient population including Spondylolisthesis (a slippage of one spinal bone relative to another), Pars Defect (a fracture or bony defect that can lead to Spondylolisthesis) and other injuries associated with the bones of the posterior spine. Tears in the disc between vertebral bodies leading to herniation of disc material, are much less common in this age group even amongst high impact sports participants.


Beyond thorough history and physical exam, lower back pain should be evaluated using x-ray, dynamic x-ray, CT and MRI as indicated.  


Any injury that includes neurologic impingement or the potential for neurologic injury may require surgical intervention. However, the majority of sports related lower back injuries in young athletes are recoverable without surgery. Evaluation by a neurosurgeon is an important starting point in facilitating appropriate recovery and establishing appropriateness and time frame for return to play. 

Clay Cochran, MD

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Dr. Cochran specializes in back surgery to include minimally invasive techniques and fusion, cranial surgery, brain and spine tumors, neurosurgical trauma, carpal tunnel surgery, and surgical pain management   implantation. 


Dr. Cochran completed medical school at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center and residency at Wake Forest University in North Carolina.