Compression Fractures in Sporting News

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The type of injury sustained by Florida State University (FSU) tailback Chris Thompson on October 8, 2011, is often seen among athletes participating in high-impact sports. FSU coaching staff has previously reported that Thompson sustained stable compression fractures at T5 and T6 during play.

Compression fractures can occur in both young people and older adults; in an older adult, it is most commonly associated with weak and brittle bones due to the development of Osteoporosis. On the other hand, a compression fracture in a younger person is most often due to a significant trauma such as that sustained by Thompson.

The vertebrae, or bones, and intervertebral discs protect the spinal cord and nerves. A compression fracture can be described as a collapse of the vertebral body. This type of fracture can be classified as stable or non-stable in nature, depending on degree of collapse and threat to spinal cord integrity. A person with a stable compression fracture will frequently present with pain at the level of fracture, but will not present with any neurological deficits such as weakness or numbness. This type of compression fracture is routinely treated conservatively and non-surgically. Treatment can include a back brace and pain management.

A stable fracture treated non-surgically has the potential to heal without additional complications. When asked about likely recovery times, Dr. Chetan Patel, world-renowned surgeon located at the Spine Center at Altamonte, stated that "a stable compression fracture will, most often, heal on its own over a course of 6-12 weeks." If complications develop and the fracture does not heal or worsens, then surgical solutions may be required. According to Dr. Patel, an older adult with persistent pain from a compression fracture may be a candidate to undergo a minimally invasive procedure including vertebroplasty or kyphoplasty, while an open procedure is typically required for a compression fracture in a younger person.

A vertebral fracture is a significant medical problem/condition and requires medical intervention to ensure optimal recovery. For more information on compression fractures and other neck or back conditions please visit the conditions page on our website.

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