Back Injuries Caused by Sporting Activities

Sporting Spinal Injuries

Recreational and sporting activities account for 18% of all Spinal Cord Injuries and many sporting careers have been ended due to damage to the spine.

Particular sports are higher risk than others, with the top activites for back injuries being:

  • Rugby
  • Motorbiking
  • Quadbiking
  • Skateboarding
  • Skiing
  • Snowboarding
  • Horse Riding

There is a school of thought that adolescents risk injury to the back bone (spine) by taking part in certain physical sports whilst their bones are still forming, with some school refusing to allow full contact sports until the age of 16.

Rugby - High Risk of Back Injury

Rugby - High Risk of Back Injury

Damage caused to the spinal cord can affect interneurons and motorneurons which control the bodys movement, resulting in partial or full paralyse – the loss of use of the legs.

Back injuries are very common in sport, with many athletes suffering from them at some time in their career. Athletes who play contact sports are more likely to suffer from back problems.

What causes a back injury?

Generally, too much strain on the spine and back muscles.

Since the back is a major part of the body, different areas get injured playing sport. They are, however, also common in tennis, golf and cricket.

Because the back is very complex, one injury can often affect another part of the spine and they are notoriously difficult to diagnose.

Physiotherapists and doctors utilise X-rays to see if the spine has been damaged, but they also use a series of questions and short tests to establish whether the problem could be muscular.

Back injuries are often very painful and prevent athletes from training.

What parts make up the back?

The spine conists of small bones called vertebrates stacked on top of each other.

The Structure of the Human Spine

The Structure of the Human Spine

There are 24 vertebrates in the back. They are:

  • Seven Neck (Cervical) vertebrae
  • 12 Chest (Thoracic) vertebrae
  • Five Lower Back (Lumbar) vertebrae
  • Muscles and Ligaments attach to each vertebrae allowing the back to move without causing damage.

In between each of the vertebrae are discs of fibro cartilage – the back’s version of shock absorbers. These discs contain a jelly-like fluid which helps the back move freely.

Surgery or Alternative Treatment

Certain back injuries, like vertebrae fractures, may require surgery because they can cause damage to the rest of the spinal cord. But other injuries, like muscle tears, aren’t as serious.

Massages, physiotherapy and rest are the best ways to get back to full fitness.

Will I be able to play sports again?

Again, it depends on how serious the injury is.

Muscle strains and tears can take anywhere between two to eight weeks to heal.

But more serious injuries, for example a slipped back disk, can take a lot longer to recover from.

Athletes must avoid doing any activities which can harm their recovery.

So for a fast bowler, physiotherapists would advise them not to bowl until their injury has cleared up.

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