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What is a spondylolysis?

A spondylolysis is a fracture in one of the small joints that connects the spinal vertebrae together. This is thought to be a congenital defect in the joint that predisposes an individual to injury. This injury is also seen in individuals with excessive or repetitive lumbar extension and rotation.

Dr. Sanjeev Agarwal, MD
Pain Medicine Specialist

Spondylolysis is a defect in one of the bones (vertebrae) that make up the spinal column. More specifically it is defined as a defect in the pars interarticularis of the vertebral arch. It usually affects the fifth lumbar vertebra in the lower back and, much less commonly, the fourth lumbar vertebra. It is one of most common causes of low back pain in adolescent athletes and can be seen on X-ray as a stress fracture in a vertebra.

Spondylolysis is a defect or fracture in a specific region of a vertebra. These injuries usually occur as a result of repetitive hyperextension of the spine during activity.

This answer provided for NATA by the King College Athletic Training Education Program.

A spondylolysis is a fracture in one of the small joints that connects the spinal vertebrae together. This is thought to be caused by a congenital defect in the joint that predisposes an individual to injury. However, this injury is also seen in individuals with excessive or repetitive lumbar (lower back) extension and rotation, such as gymnasts. Bilateral spondylolysis can lead to a condition in which the vertebral body slips anterior (towards the front of the body) to the rest of the spine in a condition called spondylolisthesis.

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