Microscopic lumbar discectomy results for 60 cases in professional and Olympic athletes

Spine J. Mar-Apr 2003;3(2):100-5. doi: 10.1016/s1529-9430(02)00569-7.


Background context: There is no documented information indicating time for return to play after lumbar discectomy in professional and Olympic athletes.

Purpose: To determine the rate of return to sport and the average time of recovery in elite athletes undergoing microscopic lumbar discectomy (MLD).

Study design: Between 1984 and 1998, the senior author performed 60 MLDs on 59 professional and Olympic athletes with lumbar herniated nucleus pulposus.

Patient sample: Sixty consecutive MLDs performed on professional and Olympic athletes were reviewed.

Outcome measures: The rate of return and the average time to return to sport were determined. Also, the distribution of pain and presence of neurologic deficits were recorded.

Methods: A retrospective review was performed.

Results: Follow-up indicated that all but 7 of the 60 cases had returned to their sport, including one who underwent a second MLD for a herniation at an adjacent level. The average time from surgery to return was 5.2 months for the entire group, with a range of 1 to 15 months.

Conclusion: MLD was effective in correcting the problems that forced the athletes to seek help, and the time to return often depends on factors other than their medical condition. Postoperatively, a complete trunk stabilization rehabilitation program was effective in returning these athletes to a high level of competition.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Athletic Injuries / diagnosis
  • Athletic Injuries / rehabilitation
  • Athletic Injuries / surgery*
  • Diskectomy*
  • Humans
  • Intervertebral Disc Displacement / diagnosis
  • Intervertebral Disc Displacement / rehabilitation
  • Intervertebral Disc Displacement / surgery*
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / surgery*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Microsurgery*
  • Recovery of Function
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome