Teen Athletes and Stress Fractures: What to Watch Out For

Photo credit: © James Boardman – Dreamstime.com

The Spring season usually brings young athletes back onto the playing fields or engaging in team competitions, but it can also sideline them with back pain. In fact, up to 30% of youth athletes will experience back pain at some point during their sporting years. So how can you tell if your child has just a minor muscle ache, or something that requires treatment?

The good news is the disc problems that often plague adults typically don’t affect adolescents. Instead, the primary cause of lower back pain for teen athletes is a stress fracture in one or more small bones in the lower lumbar region. Unlike a fracture that happens from a traumatic event such as an accident, stress fractures are overuse injuries. Football players, dancers, gymnasts, lacrosse, and baseball players are at higher risk for this injury due to the repetitive movements and hyperextension of the lumbar back involved in these sports. But any adolescent who has a rapid increase in a high-impact activity is susceptible over time.

Here are some signs that your child’s back pain could actually be a stress fracture:

• Persistent pain in the lower back that radiates in the buttock
• Pain that lasts for several weeks
• Pain that gets worse with activity, but eases with rest
• Difficulty standing or walking

If your teen exhibits some or any of the above symptoms, have them clinically evaluated at our office. When caught and treated early, most stress fractures will resolve completely.

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