Purpose: The report describes the mechanisms and sequelae of the first case of thoracic vertebral fracture to be reported in a rugby league footballer.
Case summary: The injury was sustained as the result of a legal shoulder tackle. The player exhibited no sign other than dorsal midthoracic tenderness and paraspinal muscle spasm. Investigations commenced the next day because of persistent pain. CT and MRI revealed complex T6/7 fractures not evident on plain x-ray. The player was managed conservatively with analgesia and rest and has made a full recovery.
Discussion: Football is the most common cause of cervical spinal fractures in sport, whereas thoracic spinal fractures are very rare. Although in this case significant damage occurred to the posterior elements of the column, there were no neurological complications.
Relevance: The anatomical and physiological bracing of the thoracic spine accounts for the rarity of fractures in contact sport and favors conservative management.