Causes of spinal injuries in sports

Traumatic injuries of the spine (especially those of the lumbar spine) are the most common type of injuries sustained by athletes in powerlifting and bodybuilding. In a number of cases, such injuries are irreversible and mean an unambiguous indication of a total refusal to engage in sports activities. Moreover, due to the low recovery capabilities of the spine and a high vulnerability of the spinal cord located in the vertebral column, the injuries can often cause disability.

Training in powerlifting and bodybuilding is most commonly accompanied by lumbar spine injuries resulting from:

  • Improper exercise techniques, from the technical point of view;
  • Excessive power load;
  • Inadequate uniformity of the load exerted on separate muscle groups;
  • Incomplete recovery of the body.

The trauma can be caused by the impact of an excessively high load on the spine, which either leads to ruptured soft tissues and displaced vertebrae or may be a result of progressive pathological changes in the structural elements of the spine decompensated by overload, for example, an athlete may be injured in osteoporosis, connective tissue diseases, spinal tuberculosis.

Errors resulting in spinal injuries

If the gravity vector is incorrectly applied to the athlete's spine, the excessive physical activity causes injury. In other words, when lifting a large weight with one jerk in an incorrect manner, the injury is almost inevitable. In this case, the most dangerous is the direct vertical application of gravity to the vertebral column. This can also cause a vertebral compression fracture.

When gravity is applied at an angle to the spine, a person can suffer stretched tendons and ligaments, as well as dislocated vertebrae.

With too short rest periods between trainings, there is an incomplete recovery of the body, which causes dystrophy of the fibrous ring that keeps the nucleus pulpous of the discs resulting in the development of a hernia. In fact, it is the wear of the soft tissues of the spine, which makes it possible for further damage even under small loads.

An imbalance in the development of various muscle groups can be one of the causes of spinal trauma. For example, weak muscles of the abdominal press lead to lumbar lordosis, increasing the load on the intervertebral discs in this region. This causes an incorrect load distribution during barbell exercises and, as a result, injury.

In case of damaged intervertebral discs, nerve root impingement and spinal cord compression may develop. This is an extremely dangerous condition requiring immediate provision of qualified medical care.

The most dangerous exercises

The greatest danger to the spine are the exercises, that exert such a force to the athlete’s vertebral column that it changes the spinal line. Dislocation under the weight of a barbell or other weighting devices, the vertebrae of the lumbar region become excessively mobile and, as a result, more vulnerable.

First of all, such exercises include squatting with a barbell, draft in slope, deadlift. When performing squats, there is a high probability of dislocation of intervertebral discs or a compression fracture, whereas a deadlift often leads to displaced vertebrae, soft tissue stretching and detachment of the transverse process of the first lumbar vertebra.

Symptoms of traumatic spinal injury

The main sign of a vertebral column injury is pain, which is most commonly nagging. If the injury is not accompanied by dislocated discs and is in its initial stage, the athlete may simply feel discomfort or pain in the legs. Pain can be either permanent or manifested under dynamic and static loads. Should any discomfort occur in the lumbar region, it should not be ignored! Serious consequences can be prevented only with a timely visit to a doctor!

How to identify a dangerous injury?

According to statistics, 90% of back injuries are treatable and caused by microfractures of soft tissues resulting in the development of local pain. In this case, there is no need for special medical measures. It is enough to stay in bed and rest for a few days until the pain passes.

An injury that is cause for concern is characterized by the following symptoms:

  • Pain occurs during exercising or immediately after it (and not the next day);
  • Pain is accompanied by a crunch in the back;
  • Pain is very severe;
  • Lightning pain irradiating in the limbs;
  • Impaired limb sensitivity;
  • Foot paresthesia;
  • Prolonged pain (lasting longer than a few days).

Should any of these signs be present, it is strongly recommended to consult a doctor.

Treatment and prevention

To prevent spinal injuries, one needs to:

  • Strictly dose physical activity;
  • Use a fixing belt when lifting weights;
  • Regularly train all muscle groups;
  • Alternate periods of rest and exercising, providing an adequate amount of time to restore the body;
  • Do a thorough warm-up;
  • Take vitamins and supplements to strengthen the soft connective tissues in the back.

The first thing to do when confronted with spinal injuries is to go for an x-ray examination, determine the degree of damage and its nature.

If there are no displaced intervertebral discs, one should simply rest for several days and exercise with the greatest possible care increasing the load gradually, starting from the very minimum.

In case of displaced intervertebral discs and the development of a hernia, it is necessary to conduct a course of therapy aimed at stretching the spine and creating optimal conditions for restoring its integrity.

ДTo provide symptomatic treatment (pain relief, suppression of inflammation), doctors apply Ketanov, Diclofenac and other drugs.

Most of mild spinal injuries require conservative treatment or even only physiotherapy and massage. In case of injuries accompanied by vertebral injury (for example, compression fracture), spinal disc herniation, as well as in severe cases with spinal cord injury, one should undergo a full course of treatment and rehabilitation at a specialized center.

Here you can also read other articles on this topic:

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