Incidence and etiology of lumbar spondylolysis: review of the literature

J Orthop Sci. 2010 May;15(3):281-8. doi: 10.1007/s00776-010-1454-4. Epub 2010 Jun 18.


Background: Lumbar spondylolysis is a defect of the pars interarticularis known to occur as a stress fracture. Its incidence varies considerably depending on ethnicity, sex, and sports activity. However, there are few literature reviews describing its incidence in different ethnic groups or in people who engage in different sports.

Methods: We reviewed the most relevant articles on spondylolysis published in scientific journals. First, we focused on its incidence in various ethnic groups distributed by sex, the familial occurrence, and in patients with relevant diseases. Second, we focused on the incidence of spondylolysis in relation to the sports practiced by the patients. Although placing special emphasis on the incidence of lumbar spondylolysis in the general population in Japan, we also reviewed the Japanese and English literature to investigate its incidence among those who engage in different sports.

Results: The incidence of lumbar spondylolysis in the general Japanese population was 5.9%. Most studies report that the incidence in higher in male subjects than in female subjects. We found that Japanese rugby and judo players were prone to suffer lumbar spondylolysis, at an incidence of about 20%. However, the incidence for Japanese professional soccer and baseball players was much higher, at 30%, which was more than five times the incidence in the general Japanese population.

Conclusions: The incidence of lumbar spondylolysis varies depending on ethnicity, sex, family history, relevant disease, and sports activity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Athletic Injuries / epidemiology
  • Black or African American
  • Female
  • Fractures, Stress / epidemiology*
  • Fractures, Stress / ethnology
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Japan / epidemiology
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / injuries*
  • Male
  • Spondylolysis / epidemiology*
  • Spondylolysis / ethnology
  • United States / epidemiology
  • White People