Back injuries in young fast bowlers--a radiological investigation of the healing of spondylolysis and pedicle sclerosis

S Afr Med J. 2003 Aug;93(8):611-6.


Objective: To demonstrate the efficacy of various radiological diagnostic modalities in assessing lower back pain in young fast bowlers.

Methods: Ten cricketers who presented to either a physiotherapist or a doctor with suspected spondylolysis underwent an X-ray, a single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) bone scan and a computed tomography (CT) scan to assess the severity of the injury. Three and 12 months after the initial CT scan, second and third CT scans were performed in order to assess whether healing had taken place. After the initial radiological investigation the subjects diagnosed with spondylolysis or pedicle sclerosis underwent prescribed intervention and rehabilitation which included physiotherapy modalities, postural correction, and specific individually graded flexibility, stabilisation, strengthening and cardiovascular programmes.

Results: Radiographs were normal in 8 subjects, while 2 had evidence of sclerosis. The isotope scan showed increased uptake in all of the subjects. The CT scans showed no fracture (N = 3), partial fractures (N = 3), complete fractures (N = 2) and old fractures bilaterally (N = 2). When the follow-up CT scan was carried out at 3 months, 1 of the subjects had developed a partial fracture of the left pars interarticularis on the inferior border, which showed complete union when CT scanned at 12 months. At 3 months the partial and complete fractures showed progressive healing in 2 subjects, with complete healing in all the other cases. Complete healing was achieved in all subjects at 12 months, with the exception of 1 subject who showed near-complete union, with a small area of fibrous union on the inferior border and 2 old bilateral fractures that remained un-united.

Results: From the results it is evident that when a young fast bowler presents with backache after bowling, it would be appropriate to do an X-ray, a bone scan and a CT scan to make the diagnosis. Discontinuing the fast bowling and following an active rehabilitation programme should result in spontaneous resolution and healing of the fractures. If it is not detected early a fibrous or non-union fracture could result.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Athletic Injuries / complications
  • Athletic Injuries / diagnosis*
  • Athletic Injuries / physiopathology
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Humans
  • Low Back Pain / etiology*
  • Low Back Pain / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sclerosis / complications
  • Sclerosis / diagnosis*
  • Sclerosis / physiopathology
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Spinal Fractures / complications
  • Spinal Fractures / diagnosis*
  • Spinal Fractures / physiopathology
  • Spondylolysis / complications
  • Spondylolysis / diagnosis*
  • Spondylolysis / physiopathology
  • Time Factors
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed, Single-Photon*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed*
  • Wound Healing / physiology