The spine It is one of the most important parts of the body. Its function is key to protect spinal cord and nerves, it also keeps the center of gravity stable and helps hold the body and head in position, as well as adjusting the movements of the upper and lower extremities. Both on a day-to-day basis and in sports practice, the back and its component parts carry out constant work and withstand movements, tensions, flexion and overloads.
We spoke with Dr. Miguel Sanfeliu, one of the references at the state level in relation to the spine and currently head of the Spine Unit at Hospital IMED Valencia.
Tell us doctor, what role does the back play in sports practice?
To begin with, we must understand how the back works, which is made up of powerful muscles and resistant bones. For its part, the flexibility of the spine is due to its composition, instead of a large bone as in other parts of the body, it is composed of 33 vertebrae supported by a complex system of ligaments and muscles. At a sports level, any discipline that we carry out will require work on the back, demanding more or less and activating some areas or others depending on the discipline. There are some sports that, due to their characteristics, exert more tension and demand more from the back or spine.
What type of injuries or discomforts are most common among athletes?
We must distinguish between what is an injury and what is simply an overload and discomfort. As we indicated before in almost all sports the back comes into play Therefore, it is normal that overloads may appear after continued practice, normally in the lower back, which is where athletes report more discomfort of this type. The most frequent injuries that we find in athletes are herniated discs, fractures, sprains of the ligaments of the back, tears or strains.
What sports are the ones that usually present the most back injuries?
The sports activities that pose the greatest risk to the back are those that involve weight lifting (weightlifting, crossfit, gym…), high-intensity team sports such as basketball and handball, sailing sports, swimming and golf and tennis. The activation of the back and its muscles is different in each of these sports, so the injuries can be varied. Weight-bearing sports can cause disc injuries, tears and overloads in muscle groups. Golf is another of the sports in which we frequently find disc injuries, mainly due to the continuous rotation that causes great tension in the back. Muscular pains in the lumbar region are also frequent in golf as in tennis. Basketball and handball, on the other hand, are sports in which a large number of movements, changes of pace, jumps and turns are made that can cause problems such as low back pain. Swimming is one of the sports indicated to prevent back problems and work your muscular system, however continued practice or at a high level can cause problems due to the development and growth of the back muscles themselves
What treatments can we apply to back injuries?
In the Spine Unit of IMED Valencia we treat all kinds of injuries and back pain. Depending on the discomfort or injury, we apply the ideal technique. We have state-of-the-art diagnostic tests such as digital ultrasound, high-field magnetic resonance imaging or multi-slice CT, which allow us to identify in the first instance the source of pain or the exact injury suffered by the patient.
In addition our The team is made up of traumatologists, rehabilitators, radiologists, neurosurgeons, neurologists and orthopedic surgeons. In this way each injury receives the necessary treatment. Some injuries require mainly physiotherapy work and more serious injuries such as hernias require surgical intervention. At IMED we also apply minimally invasive surgical techniques that reduce pain and postoperative recovery times and that for athletes is an advantage as they do not have to stand.
How can we prevent or avoid these injuries?
The best medicine to prevent injuries and back problems derived from sports practice is work on the strength and flexibility of the area. By working the muscles of the area we increase the protection of the spine, the vertebrae and the rest of the tissues such as ligaments and muscles of the spine. A healthy back will help us avoid many injuries, whether derived from sports or daily life. It is important that this work is carried out progressively and that we dedicate a part of our weekly training routine to working on the area in a specific way.