While you may love the game, you should know the dangers behind the sport you play when it comes to protecting your spine. In a 2008 study investigating spinal injuries in sports, Boden & Jarvis found that sports account for over eight percent of new spinal cord problems each year. This number could be reduced with proper training, protection, and avoiding sports that cause spine stress altogether.
What Leads to Spine Injuries in Sports?
Your first guess might be high-impact sports like football and rugby. However, high-impact sports are not the only causes of spinal injury in sports. Lower-impact sports that involve using the same movements over and over like running, tennis, and golf are harmful when not executed properly. This leads to overuse with immediate or long-term ramifications later in life.
Other back injuries may be caused by improper form during activities like tackling and swinging, lack of stretching, and direct impact to the spinal cord.
Types of Spine Injuries:
In order to avoid spine injuries, you might want to know a few common ones that occur in sport:
Spondylolysis is a stress fracture of the vertebra that strikes athletes whose sport involves bends and rotations. It is common amongst adolescents and in sports such as golf, wrestling, and gymnastics.
A stinger is frequent in high contact sports. Also known as burners, stingers are not as catastrophic as an injury to the spinal cord. Stingers occur if the back or neck is twisted quickly, like from a hard tackle or over extending during a game. If left unattended, stringers may reoccur and cause severe pain.
Herniated disks occur when the outer part of your disc tears, exposing the inner portion. A herniated disk may be extremely painful and limit your activity. This injury is more common amongst older athletes and is caused by overusing back muscles, according to Mayo Clinic.
Preventing Spine Injuries
While there is no way to out-and-out eliminate spinal injuries, there are measures you can take to limit them:
- Warm up and stretch – Warm up any areas that will be used during your sporting activities. If your sport involves heavy usage of your back, make sure to incorporate back stretches.
- Wear protective gear – Use protective gear if provided or necessary. Back belts and braces are helpful during heavy lifting.
- Know your surroundings – Sports like diving require you to know your surroundings. You are most likely safe if you are diving at an event, however, if you’re somewhere unfamiliar, ensure the water is deep enough for diving.
- Maintain good posture– A lot of back injuries are caused by over pressure. It is good to keep your posture as good as possible to lessen the pressure on your back and reduce injury risk.
Spine Injury Symptoms
You may find it challenging to distinguish between a spine injury or general pain. Here are some common symptoms of spinal cord injuries:
- Difficulty walking
- Trouble moving your limbs
- Numbness or tingling that spreads through extremities
- Stiffness located in the back or neck
- Unnatural head positioning
If you are experiencing any combination of these symptoms, you should contact an orthopedic physician to rule out spine injury. Some spine injuries are more serious than others and should be treated immediately.