Scoliosis Surgery Can Help Teens Return To Athletics

Category: Minimally Invasive Surgery | Author: Stefano Sinicropi

Athletes Spinal Stress Fractures

Our adolescent years are a time when our bodies go through a number of different changes. Your son may grow six inches in a year, or your niece may have grown like a weed since the last time you saw her, but these periods of rapid bone development can also cause problems if they don’t occur properly. In your spine, these periods of significant bone development can lead to an unnatural curvature of the spine, especially if any injury occurs to this area while it’s developing. This curvature problem is known as scoliosis, and the spinal curve can get more significant if left untreated.

Being told that your teenager is dealing with a spinal curvature disorder is never an easy diagnosis to hear, but you can take solace in knowing that treatment is often very effective at helping correct the issue so that they can get back to doing all the physical activities that they love. For many, that includes a return to athletics. Below, we explore how a recent study found that scoliosis surgery could help teens return to athletics in short order.

Scoliosis Surgery And Return To Sports

For the most recent study, a group of researchers tracked the rehabilitation of 26 athletes between the ages of 10 and 18 years old. All of the study participants competed at a junior varsity level of athletics or higher for more than three months per year. Athletes completed preoperative performance testing and conducted monthly self-assessments until one year after surgery.

After looking at the data, here’s what researchers uncovered:

  • When released to unrestricted activity around the 4-8 week mark after surgery, athletes were quick to return to baseline levels of sport performance, with the majority hitting this baseline within three months.
  • The median return to sporting activities was 2.7 months post-op
  • One year after surgery, 24 of the 26 athletes reported that they had returned to sport at their presurgical level of play.
  • Participation in contact sports was associated with a longer return to sport compared to participation in non-contact or limited contact sports.
  • The most common barriers to returning to sporting activities were conditioning and flexibility.

“Safe return to sports and other physical activities has become commonplace among patients with idiopathic scoliosis who undergo spine fusion surgery.” said Dr. Sumeet Garg, a pediatric spine surgeon at Children’s Hospital Colorado and Associate Professor of Orthopaedics at the University of Colorado, who led the study. “Sports like soccer, basketball, volleyball, track and dance are all activities in which an adolescent with a successful posterior spinal fusion is likely to be able to participate.”

Not only can surgery help to correct a curvature disorder, but it can be performed in a way that ensures young athletes can get back to the sporting activities they love. So if you notice that your teen appears to have a hunched or slouched posture, or they are complaining of spinal discomfort, consider having your primary care provider or a spine specialist take a closer look. Surgery is hardly ever the first option, and conservative care can oftentimes help treat a variety of spinal issues, but know that if an operation is needed, your teen can quickly get back to their active lifestyle following the surgery.

For more information, or to talk to a spine specialist about a different back issue, reach out to Dr. Sinicropi and the team at The Midwest Spine & Brain Institute today at (651) 430-3800.


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