For athletes or anyone who regularly participates in athletics or sports activity, it’s not uncommon to experience some type of spinal injury – although, strangely, they’re not as frequently discussed as some other types of injuries. In fact, due to the high-impact, high-energy nature of some sports and activities, it is extremely common for athletes to suffer spinal injuries in the neck or back. Many athletic injuries occur due to reasons such as various types of impact, falls, repetitive movements and overexertion or overuse.
Because many athletic activities can be very strenuous, soreness, pain and symptoms of more serious injuries can often be dismissed as something less serious. For reasons like these, it’s extremely important to understand how physical activities and training can affect your body. For example, Olympic weightlifter and gold medalist, Oscar Figueroa, was misdiagnosed with a wrist injury when the symptoms he was experiencing due to his intense training were predominantly presented in his hand and wrist. As it turns out, he was actually suffering from a spinal injury. More specifically, he had a cervical disc herniation that was so severe it was on the verge of causing quadriplegia. Luckily, with the correct diagnosis, he was able to undergo treatment and return to weightlifting and, eventually, the Olympics where he took home gold.
While extreme cases like this are rare, they can still occur, which make it extremely important to know what to look out for when it comes to possible athletic spinal injuries. Learn more about common injuries, plus how athletic spinal injuries are prevented and treated below:
What Are the Most Common Neck and Back Injuries that Occur in Sports?
- Neck stingers or burners — Stingers usually occur in contact sports and are caused by the head being forced backward, sideways and away from the shoulder, or by a downward force to the shoulder. This type of sudden movement to the neck can cause the nerves to become compressed or “pinched,” which causes a stinging or burning pain that radiates through one of the arms.
- Stress fractures — Repetitive twisting, forceful rotation and overextension can place an extreme amount of stress on the spine. These movements can overload the spine and result in tiny vertebral cracks, known as stress fractures.
- Muscle sprains and strains (aka soft-tissue damage) — Muscle sprains and strains are most commonly the result of activities involving bending, twisting and weight bearing. The term “sprain” refers to damage to the ligament, and a “strain” represents an injury to a muscle or tendon.
- Herniated Discs — With many sports and athletic activities, added pressure is put on your spinal discs due to the various types of movements, added weight or intense hits and falls. This can cause the discs to begin to “slip” out of place and result in a herniated disc.
How Are Neck and Back Injuries From Sports Usually Treated?
When it comes to treatment options, it depends on the type and severity of the injury. With most cases, treatment will begin with more conservative methods, however, there are times where more invasive forms of treatments are needed. For example, if a herniated disc or spinal fracture is severe enough, or if more conservative treatment does not help, surgery may be required in order to fix the condition and provide relief. With both conservative or more invasive treatments, spinal injuries can take weeks and sometimes months to heal.
What is the Best Way to Prevent Athletic Injuries from Sports?
While injuries cannot always be prevented, anyone who participates in athletic activity should always be trained to use proper techniques that minimize the risk of injury. Most commonly, strengthening of the core and back muscles can help to provide support to the spine and lessen the risk of possible injury. It’s important to always remember that spine injuries should be taken very seriously and continuing to participate in a sport with a back, neck, or spine injury can worsen the condition and even result in permanent damage.
If you would like to learn more about athletic spinal injuries or have questions about treatment options available at Southern Laser Spine, please call us at (305) 901-1268 or click the button below to request a free phone consultation.