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Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2013 Oct;45(10):1971-4. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e318294b4ed.

Athletic participation in children with symptomatic spondylolysis in the New York area.

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  • 1Department of Pediatric Orthopaedic Surgery, Hospital for Special Surgery, New York, NY.



The purpose of this study was to assess athletic activities associated with spondylolysis in children and adolescents in a New York metropolitan tertiary referral center.


We retrospectively evaluated 137 consecutive cases of symptomatic spondylolysis presenting to one of two pediatric orthopedic spine surgeons. Ten patients who did not participate in any organized athletics were excluded, leaving 127 children for analysis. Data regarding spondylolysis and athletic participation were gathered for analysis.


One hundred and twenty-seven patients were analyzed (mean age, 13.9 ± 2.2 yr). All patients had initial x-rays, with nearly all obtaining further advanced level imaging to confirm the diagnosis of spondylolysis. Magnetic resonance imaging was obtained in 42.5% of cases, limited computed tomography scan in 29.1% of cases, and single-photon emission computed tomography scan in 23.6% of cases. The most common location of spondylolysis was at the L5 level (74%), of which 43.6% were bilateral. Of the overall cohort, 2.4% had spondylolysis at multiple levels. The most common athletic activities associated with spondylolysis in this cohort were soccer (19.3%), basketball (17.2%), and lacrosse (9.4%).


Although previous reports have implicated participation in various sports in the development of symptomatic spondylolysis in children, lacrosse and baseball have rarely been associated with spondylolysis. We found that in the New York metropolitan area, soccer, basketball, lacrosse, baseball, tennis, and football were most commonly associated with spondylolysis. Therefore, we emphasize consideration of spondylolysis in these children if they present with low back pain. These results may be used to counsel parents and young athletes about the possibility of spondylolysis as an etiology of lumbar back pain and in educating coaches, teachers, school nurses, and primary care providers.

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