The Spine and Sports Program at Boston Children’s Hospital focuses on spine conditions and injuries that affect young athletes. Our team includes sports medicine physicians, physical therapists, and athletic trainers who work with young athletes with a focus on recovery and safe return to play.
Conditions we treat
We care for athletes with stable spine injuries such as:
- stress fractures
- cervical canal stenosis
- burners and stingers (an injury of the nerves in the neck and shoulder)
- Chiari malformations
- muscle strains/ligament sprains
- intervertebral disc disease, including disc degeneration and herniation
Some of our patients are athletes with spinal curvatures such as scoliosis, kyphosis, and lordosis. We also work with athletes with Scheuermann's disease and growth plate injuries.
How we evaluate and treat athletes with back pain
When an injured athlete comes to us, our specialists start with a musculoskeletal and neurological examination and assess the athlete for other conditions that can cause back pain. We often order diagnostic tests such an x-ray or MRI to diagnose a spine injury.
Treatment for an athlete with a spine injury nearly always includes physical therapy and often bracing. When our patients reach an appropriate stage of recovery, we coordinate with injury-prevention specialists at The Micheli Center for Sports Injury Prevention to help them return to play in peak condition.
If one of our patients doesn’t respond to conservative management, we will often consider further treatments such as injections, medication, and other treatment modalities. In the rare case that an injury requires surgery, we coordinate care with Boston Children’s orthopedic surgeons and neurosurgeons.
Return to play
We coordinate with our physical therapists to ensure effective care all the way up to the point that an athlete can return to their sport.
On rare occasions, when an injury or condition is associated with an increased risk of additional injury, the decision of whether or not to return to sport is more difficult. In such cases, the decision depends on the athlete, their risk of future injury, the sport they hope to return to, and what they would lose if they stopped playing.
Our physicians work individually with athletes to help them understand their risk of reinjury compared to the physical and emotional benefits of returning to sport. We provide information to help our patients and their families make informed choices and reduce their risk of future injury as much as possible.
Specialists in pediatric sports medicine
Diagnosing and treating back pain in children differs substantially from adults. In children, low back pain is often caused by stress fractures in the spine. For these athletes, early treatment can mean the difference between complete recovery and ongoing, recurrent issues.
We are leaders in caring for young athletes with spine fractures and other spine conditions. Our physicians developed the protocols used in spine clinics around the country today. We continue to conduct groundbreaking research to improve spine health and recovery in young athletes.
Our patients inform our practice and in turn, they benefit from the expertise we have gained from treating hundreds of patients every year.