Lumbar spine disc herniation is a well-known type of injury which often causes impairing low back pain, however, it can also compress the nerve roots in the area and generate radicular pain and other symptoms along the lower extremities, such as altered sensations and muscle weakness. Furthermore, this type of injury will not only affect the athlete’s ability to perform during their specific sport or physical activity, it may also become chronic and affect the athlete in the future.
Conservative treatments are frequently utilized when managing lumbar disc herniation in athletes, although surgical options may be considered if the injury is too severe. Many elite athletes often request faster recovery methods for their type of injuries and symptoms in order to minimize their time spent away from training and competition. As a result, a wide number of athletes will seek surgical alternatives earlier than recommended, provided they meet the criteria for lumbar spine surgery. The most popular surgical procedure for athletes with a low back disc herniation is the lumbar disc microdiscectomy.
The intervertebral discs of the lumbar spine perform an essential biomechanical role within the spine. These function to provide mobility between the segments of the spine while distributing compressive, shear and torsional forces. These discs are made up of a thick, outer ring of fibrous cartilage, known as the annulus fibrosis, which surround the gelatinous core of the disc, known as the nucleus pulposus, which is contained within the cartilage end plates.
Each intervertebral disc consists of cells and substances, such as collagen, proteoglycans and scattered fibrochondrocytic cells, which function to absorb and conduct increased forces from body weight and muscle activity. In order to effectively perform its function, the disc depends immensely on the structural condition of the annulus fibrosis, nucleus pulposus and the vertebral end plate. If the disc is healthy, it will evenly spread the forces being applied against the spine. However, disc degeneration caused by cell degradation, loss of hydration or disc collapse, can decrease the disc’s ability to withstand external forces and these will no longer be absorbed and conducted evenly across the spinal structures.
Among the young college athletes and professional athletes alike, low back pain is considered to be one of the most common complaints, estimated to affect more than 30 percent of athletes at least once in their career. A wide number of back injuries can affect the athlete, including muscle spasms and stress fractures and disc herniation. For more information, please feel free to ask Dr. Jimenez or contact us at (915) 850-0900.