Objective: The purpose of this study was to clarify the efficacy of conservative or surgical treatment in athletes with lumbar disc herniation by reviewing the literature.
Design: A search of the literature was performed through PubMed, seeking studies published from 1990 to 2009 with regard to the outcomes of conservative or surgical treatment of lumbar disc herniation in athletes. The percentage of athletes who returned to their original levels of sports activities and the period until their return after the start of treatment were assessed.
Results: One prospective and six retrospective studies were identified. One study was for conservative treatment, three for microdiscectomy, and the remaining three for percutaneous discectomy. The respective percentages of athletes who returned to original levels of sports activities (the period until their return) were 78.9% (4.7 mos), 85.1% (5.2-5.8 mos), and 69.9% (7.0 wks to 12 mos). The efficacy of conservative treatment and microdiscectomy, but not percutaneous discectomy, was comparable. No studies were found available for conventional open discectomy, percutaneous laser discectomy, or microendoscopic discectomy.
Conclusion: It was revealed that the outcomes of conservative treatment or microdiscectomy in athletes with lumbar disc herniation seemed to be satisfactory in terms of their ability to return the injured athletes to their original levels of sports activities.