The Management of Acute Lumbar Stress Reactions of the Pedicle and Pars in Professional Athletes Playing Collision Sports

Alexander R. Vaccaro, Srikanth N. Divi, Christopher K. Kepler, Gregory D. Schroeder, Andrew C. Hecht, Andrew B. Dossett, Robert G. Watkins, Robert G. Watkins, Shireen Mansoori, Jerome Reid, Alexander R. Vaccaro

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Acute stress reactions in the lumbar spine most commonly occur in athletes at the pars interarticularis followed by the pedicle. These reactions occur as a result of repetitive microtrauma from supraphysiological loads applied to the lumbar spine. Characteristic motions such as trunk extension and twisting are also thought to play a role and may be sport-specific. Other risk factors include increased lumbar lordosis, hamstring and thoracolumbar fascia tightness, and abdominal weakness. On physical examination, pain is typically reproduced with lumbar hyperextension. Currently, magnetic resonance imaging or nuclear imaging remain the most sensitive imaging modalities for identifying acute lesions. In the elite athlete, management of these conditions can be challenging, particularly in those playing collision sports such as American football, hockey, or rugby. Nonoperative treatment is the treatment of choice with rehabilitation programs focused on pain-free positioning and progressive strengthening. Operative treatment is rare, but may be warranted for patients symptomatic for >12 months. Specialized diagnosis protocols as well as treatment and return to play guidelines from 4 physicians treating elite athletes playing collision sports are presented and reviewed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)247-259
Number of pages13
JournalClinical Spine Surgery
Issue number7
StatePublished - Aug 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • collision sports
  • contact athlete
  • contact sports
  • pars
  • pars fracture
  • pedicle stress fracture
  • pediculolysis
  • spondylolysis


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