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Spondylolysis and spondylolisthesis in child and adolescent athletes: Management

James M Daniels, MD, MPH, RMSK
Section Editor
Karl B Fields, MD
Deputy Editor
Jonathan Grayzel, MD, FAAEM


Among child and adolescent athletes, spondylolysis typically represents a fracture of the posterior arch in the lower lumbar spine due to overuse and is a relatively common cause of low back pain. Spondylolisthesis involves anterior displacement of a vertebral body due to bilateral defects of the posterior arch and is less common than spondylolysis. In the large majority of cases, treatment consisting primarily of rest and symptom management allows children and adolescents to recover from these conditions without complications.

The management of spondylolysis and spondylolisthesis in child and adolescent athletes is reviewed here. The clinical presentation and diagnosis of these conditions, and the assessment of unspecified back pain in children, are discussed separately. (See "Spondylolysis and spondylolisthesis in child and adolescent athletes: Clinical presentation, imaging, and diagnosis" and "Evaluation of the child with back pain" and "Back pain in children and adolescents: Overview of causes".)


Ruling out dangerous causes of back pain — Patients, particularly younger children, with a potentially dangerous cause of low back pain must be worked up appropriately; their care is reviewed in detail separately. (See "Evaluation of the child with back pain".)

Symptoms and signs associated with dangerous causes of back pain include:

Age less than four years


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Literature review current through: Sep 2016. | This topic last updated: Oct 7, 2015.
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