When athletes ages 11-17 have low back pain, the most common cause is a fracture of the pars interarticularis, which is part of the vertebra bone. Genetics can play a role in predisposing a young athlete to this type of fracture, but overworking the area in sports is the main culprit. Volleyball, gymnastics, football, and weight lifting are among those often reported.
When the pars is fractured, the condition is called spondylolysis. Treatments include taking a break from the activity causing the back pain, anti-inflammatory medication, physical therapy, and wearing a back brace. Rare cases may require surgery.
Prevention is key to young athletes having a fulfilling sports experience. Some basic tips include resting (even bones need time off!), wearing proper footwear so torque and deceleration don't overload the spine, stability exercises to strengthen the core muscles and improve stability, and improving hip mobility, which is connected to healthier spine movement.