Could Your Back Pain Stem from Your High School Sports Career?

Posted on: 20 October 2017

While youth sports can build character by encouraging children to engage in healthy competition, train their minds and bodies to perform at their best, and be a team player, certain types of sports can sometimes have a less-positive lifetime impact on the player's joints, muscles, and bones. If you've recently found yourself dealing with spinal problems you suspect are from your long-ago junior high or high school football, hockey, or gymnastics career, you're not alone.

Read on to learn more about the types of sports-related orthopedic injuries that can strike during your adult years and your spinal care options in dealing with the pain, pressure, and stiffness you may be experiencing. 

What Problems Can Arise Decades After Playing Youth Sports?

Before you've reached your full adult height and size, your bones are in a nearly-constant state of growth, giving them a bit more flexibility to withstand blows and impacts that could potentially fracture an adult's bone. However, the converse is also true; while these bones are flexible enough to avoid breaking in many situations where an adult bone would shatter, they can also sustain damage that may take decades to truly manifest itself. 

High-impact sports like football, rugby, lacrosse, gymnastics, and roller derby can involve training and conditioning exercises that place the same level of pressure on the same bones and joints for long periods of time. Over time, this can compress the growth plates in the spine and pelvis, decreasing your adult height by a few millimeters and providing less "cushion" between the spinal vertebrae.

This may make you more vulnerable to spinal stress fractures, especially if you have low bone density or osteoporosis. Compression of the spine could also affect your gait, which in turn can put extra stress on your hip, knee, and ankle joints.

What Are Your Options if You're Dealing with Sports-Related Spinal Issues?

For those who suspect their pain, pressure, and other spinal symptoms are the result of their high school sports career, a visit to an orthopedist or orthopedic surgeon can help achieve a firmer diagnosis. Depending upon the degree of injury and your overall health, your treatment options may include medication, physical therapy, or even surgery to correct a slipped or bulging disc.

Most physicians will opt to start with the least invasive treatments, like physical therapy, to assess their success before moving on to more invasive treatments, unless your condition is severe enough that it's clear surgery is needed. Many patients have found relief through a combination of treatments, like medication and physical therapy stretches.