Spondylolysis Facts

image of what spondylolysis looks like in the spinal column
When there is a crack in the bony posterior portion of the spinal column, spondylolysis occurs.

Excessive or repeated sports training can strain the area of the spinal column called the pars interarticularis, resulting in spondylolysis.
Young athletes with a pars fracture may feel lower back pain and stiffness that worsens with exercise and improves with rest.
The treatment for a pars fracture is non-operative and includes rest and bracing for three to four months.

Pars Fractures

“Pars stress fractures occur in young athletes whose sport requires repetitive bending and hyperextension of the spine,” says William Warner, MD, Professor, who has expertise treating adolescents with this condition. “The fracture occurs in the small bone that connects the posterior lamina of the spine to the anterior vertebral body. The athlete typically experiences low back pain that grows increasingly worse.”

“I’m seeing too many adolescents developing these pars fractures,” says Warner, who is currently involved in a research study at Campbell Clinic titled, Pars Fractures and Vitamin D Deficiency. “Is the condition unique to young athletes because their bones are still growing? Is it caused by vitamin D deficiency? Is an adolescent more prone to it during a ‘growth spurt’? It’s imperative that we continue researching to find the cause and the cure.”

“We’re making progress toward finding the cause of pars fractures and ways to prevent them from occurring,” says Warner. “We have to continue with research to solve the mystery of this debilitating condition so our teenagers can participate fully in all of their activities during their school-age years. Only through continued donor support can this important research continue.”

Vitamin D Deficiency and Pars Fractures

Vitamin D deficiency and insufficiency affect nearly 1 billion people worldwide. Research is underway to determine the role vitamin D deficiency plays in pars defects in adolescents.

“In simple terms, spondylolysis is a very specific type of stress fracture in one of the vertebrae, one of the bones that make up the spinal column in an area known as the pars,” says Dr. Jeff Sawyer, Professor and Campbell Clinic pediatric surgeon. Dr. Sawyer is researching adolescent pars fractures and the role of vitamin D deficiencies. “Spondylolysis is seen more often in young athletes, especially dancers, gymnast, cheerleaders, football players, and volleyball players. Our research team is working to define the exact loading conditions that will cause these fractures, and which patients might be predisposed to developing spondylolysis because of their activity or, perhaps other health conditions.”

“Highly successful treatment protocols were specifically developed for young athletes by a multidisciplinary team at Campbell Clinic,” says Sawyer, “not only to get the young athletes back into their sport as soon as possible, but to prevent them from having back problems in the future.”

“Funding for ongoing research is so critical,” says Sawyer. “The true benefit of this work may be improving these youths’ overall health and quality of life for the next 50 years,” Sawyer continues.

Published in The Campbell Foundation Momentum

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