Significance of lumbar spondylolysis in college football players

Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 1981 Mar-Apr;6(2):172-4. doi: 10.1097/00007632-198103000-00012.


We reviewed the records of 506 consecutive college football players over an eight-year period. Of these athletes, 135 (27%) had low-back pain. Because of persistent low-back symptoms, 58 players had roentgenograms of the lumbosacral spine; 12 cases of lumbar spondylosis were observed. From the 58 players for whom roentgenograms were available, two groups were compared with respect to time lost from games and practices. One group (N = 8) had low-back pain complaints with lumbar spondylosis. The randomly selected control group (N = 12) had low-back pain with no evidence of spondylolysis on roentgenograms. There was no significant difference in time loss between these two groups (4.8% versus 4.0%). It appears that lumbar spondylolysis is of minimal clinical significance over a short (four-year) period. The long-term implications of lumbar spondylolysis are clearly important but are not addressed in this study.

MeSH terms

  • Athletic Injuries / epidemiology*
  • Back Pain / epidemiology
  • Football*
  • Humans
  • Lumbar Vertebrae* / injuries
  • Male
  • Spondylolisthesis / epidemiology*
  • Spondylolysis / epidemiology*