There’s been a marked increase in low back injuries among young athletes, including lacrosse players, in recent years, and according to medical experts, it’s due primarily to overtraining and overuse.

Sport specialization, year-round play, and tournaments that feature multiple games on successive days are all contributing factors to the growing injury trend among youth players between the ages of 12 to 19, says Dr. Justin Tortolani, chief of spine surgery at MedStar’s Union Memorial Hospital in Baltimore. 

“It’s an intersection of growth at the same time that they are unbelievably involved with intense play,” he said. “These injuries can potentially alter or end an athlete’s future.”

Tortolani’s presentation, “Low Back Injuries in Lacrosse” is the newest installment in the US Lacrosse/Medstar Sports Medicine Health & Performance Series. 

Tortolani notes that stress injuries and stress fractures are by far the most common types of low back injuries, and happen more frequently to male players. 

“The reason for that is primarily due to the violence associated with the shot. Male players exert a lot more torque through their trunk,” he said.

Improved technique and better shooting mechanics can help to avoid the types of injuries that Tortolani sees among his patients. As a former collegiate player himself, he recommends that players utilize more wrist snap to get force on the shot, rather than trunk rotation.

“Repeated rotations place a lot of stress on the junction between the low back and the pelvis,” Tortolani said.

Fortunately, most injuries among young players are not severe and respond favorably to rest. Muscle pain generally subsides in seven to 14 days.

“If it goes longer than two weeks, you have to suspect something more serious,” Tortolani said. “Disc injuries, thankfully, are relatively uncommon.”

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