Spondylolysis is a stress fracture of the vertebral pars interarticularis that frequently affects adolescents involved in sports. Conservative bracing methods may assist the clinician in treating spondylolysis, though there is a need to further validate these techniques. The goal of this study was to evaluate differences in the 3D movements of the thoracic and lumbar spine before and after bracing. Five patients (mean age 14.4 ± 1.3 years) with spondylogenic back pain were evaluated for kinematic measurements using a Vicon motion capture system. Patients performed activities both with and without a lumbar corset brace including walking, kneeling, standing from a chair, standing from the floor, ascending and descending stairs, and lifting. Patients were evaluated for differences in thoracic and lumbar range of motion (ROM) in the braced and unbraced condition. While wearing the brace, patients demonstrated reduced extension ROM of the thoracic spine while walking (mean reduction = 0.4°), ascending stairs (3.0°), descending stairs (2.1°), lifting (14.8°), standing from a chair (4.1°), standing from the floor (16.7°), and kneeling (8.4°). Patients also exhibited reduced extension ROM of the total lumbar spine while ascending stairs (mean reduction = 1.8°), lifting (12.7°), standing from a chair (9.5°), standing from the floor (11.8°), and kneeling (4.7°). These results provide evidence that bracing reduces stress on the pars interarticularis and relieves symptoms in the athlete with spondylogenic back pain, thereby facilitating a return to sports.
Keywords: adolescent athlete; bracing; kinematics; spondylolysis.