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Lower Back Pain in Athletes

“When can I play again?” is a common question that has been asked to me whenever I find myself treating athletes. As a former athlete myself, I can understand the angst that most of us feel when we are competing and find ourselves on the sidelines contemplating how much playing time we are going to potential miss. With sports becoming more and more competitive at earlier levels, the stress and pressure student athletes face from teammates, coaches, and others to either come back early from an injury or playing through the injury will often result in further complications down the road. While everyone thinks about arm and leg injuries being the main culprit in keep athletes off the field of play, it turns out that 30% of student athletes every year will lose playing time secondary to low back pain or injury. So again, the question I often get asked is “When can I play again?”

Research has shown that while low back injuries can occur in any sport, there are specific sports that are notorious for causing low back pain. Classic examples include gymnastics, wrestlers, and football players, especially offensive and defensive lineman. There is especially an increased risk in student athletes who participate year round or are involved in multiple different sports year round without resting in between seasons.

The great news I can always reassure athletes is that 90% of cases of low back pain respond positively to conservative care including many of the treatments we offer at Ames Spine and Sport including, but certainly not limited to, chiropractic adjustments, massage, acupuncture, NormaTec, Cold laser, and instrument assisted soft tissue mobilization. Being able to detect and diagnosis low back injuries in athletes early allows us to treat the problem more effectively and will enable the student athletes to get back on the field and be able to do what they enjoy doing.