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Spondylolysis in Children

  • Overview

    At Children’s Hospital Boston, we know that adolescents who have been diagnosed with an overuse injury such as spondylolysis often feel frustrated about the disruption in their normal athletic routines. Our experienced clinicians will approach your child’s treatment with sensitivity and support, helping him heal as quickly as possible so he can return to sports safely. 

    Here are the basics about spondylolysis:

    • Although some children are born with a genetic predisposition to developing spondylolysis, the injury is more common in adolescents who participate in sports that involve repetitive hyperextension (over-stretching) of the spine, such as gymnastics, football, rowing, and diving.
    • 4.4 percent of all children develop spondylolysis before the age of 6, and 6% have evidence of it by adulthood. In these cases, it does not represent an injury, and younger children who develop spondylolysis often don’t show any symptoms, and the condition might not be detected unless they get an x-ray for a separate problem. 
    • The primary symptom of spondylolysis is pain in the lower back that gets worse when the child leans backwards.
    • Adolescents with spondylolysis can usually return to sports after several months of activity modification, physical therapy, and occasionally bracing.

    How Children’s Hospital Boston approaches spondylolysis

    Experts in the Orthopedic Center at Children's provide comprehensive assessment, treatment and follow-up care to children, adolescents and young adults with spondylolysis and other overuse injuries. Our skilled orthopedists and sports medicine experts work with physical therapy staff to develop long-term treatment and activity plans. Our team has also developed innovative evaluation programs and effective injury prevention programs and strategies. Together, we provide your child with expert diagnosis, treatment and care—as well as the benefits of some of the most advanced clinical and scientific research in the world.


    Spondylolysis: Reviewed by Michael P. Glotzbecker, MD
    © Children’s Hospital Boston; posted in 2012

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