Sports Injuries

Diagnosing and Treating Sports Injuries

An unfortunate but inextricable relationship exists between sports and injuries. Managing the repair and recovery of athletes is a unique challenge, but one which has received significant investment from the medical community over the past several decades.

Our team of spine specialists can diagnose and treat injuries due to long-term wear or acute trauma. We want to help you return to full health and get back to doing what you love as quickly as possible.

Common Sports Injuries That Affect the Spine

Injuries can occur in any sport – regardless of whether or not contact is involved. In fact, most spinal injuries caused by sports can be attributed to repetitive movements such as running or golf. Over time, muscle weakness caused by overuse or inadequate stretching can make the spine vulnerable to injury.

Four of the most common spinal injuries that occur in athletes are:

Vertebral Stress Fractures: Common in gymnasts, dancers, and divers, these injuries are caused by twisting movements that place a high amount of stress on vertebrae. Tiny cracks, known as stress fractures, may develop as a result.

Herniated Disks: In situations where the body twists while the spine is flexed, the high amount of pressure on the vertebral discs can cause them to slip out of place. Poor technique and overtraining are often contributing factors to this injury. 

Cervical Stingers: This particular injury – also referred to as a neck stinger – is more common to contact sports. It occurs when an athlete’s head is forcibly shifted, resulting in the overstretching of the neck. Pain from a stinger can be felt through one of the arms and can last up to several minutes.

Back Strains: Ligament damage can significantly limit performance and cause a great deal of pain. Strains are common in athletes who lift heavy weights regularly, resulting in pain, swelling, and weakness in the back area. In many cases, adequate rest is sufficient to heal this injury, but if it’s ignored for a long period of time, it may become more serious.

How Sports Injuries Diagnosed and Treated

Determining the cause of your sports-related back pain involves several tests. These will typically begin with a patient’s explanation of his or her pain. Additionally, a medical professional will observe the patient walking, bending, and performing other low-impact physical tasks. Occasionally, an x-ray or CAT scan may be conducted to confirm an initial assumption. 

Dr. Datta, Kassandra, & team,

I just wanted to thank you and your whole team for helping me this year. Special thanks to Bryce for his patience and care during my first visits, then offering surgery. I am down 20 lbs. because I can now work out without getting injured and re-injured repeatedly. You have all made such a difference in my life this year, for the better, and I am BEYOND grateful.


Recovery from treatment for a sports-related injury is largely dependent on the nature of the injury and the method of treatment. Additionally, every athlete’s body has different requirements, and a recovery plan will be customized to your individual needs.

In nearly all cases, following treatment, patients will need to establish a routine that involves rest and exercises focused on strengthening and increasing flexibility in the affected area.  Ongoing physical therapy may also be recommended.

If surgery is necessary, patients will typically have an extended rest period and a more stringent recovery plan. Under a trainer’s guidance, physical therapy will almost certainly be a component of the recovery process.

Sports Injuries Providers

Michael ChangMichael Chang, MD
Spine Surgeon
Dennis CrandallDennis Crandall, MD
Spine Surgeon
Jason DattaJason Datta, MD
Spine Surgeon
Alec SundetAlec Sundet, MD
Spine Surgeon
Lyle YoungLyle Young, MD
Spine Surgeon
Benjamin SellBenjamin Sell, PA-C
Physician Assistant