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Sports Medicine

Stress fracture of thoracic spine

12/08/2008

Question:

I am 18 years old(senior) and was recently diagnosed with a stress fracture to my T8 vertebrae. I play basketball and am a college prospect. One doctor told me to sit out, but doing that could jeopardze my future. The other told me I might could play. So would there be any serious reprocussions, such as paralysis, for going ahead and playing now and waiting to let it heal till after the season?

Answer:

A stress fracture involving a single thoracic vertebrae in a teenager occurs uncommonly. A specific recommendation regarding potential "serious repercussions" if you continue to play basketball despite your stress fracture cannot be provided over the Internet, as this would require a complete medical history, physical examination, and specifics regarding your fracture as demonstrated by whichever imaging studies you've undergone. One or both physicians with whom you've already consulted should be able to provide you with the basis for their recommendations, as well as discuss with you how strongly they feel regarding their respective recommendations.

A stress fracture will progress/become worse with continuation of the activity responsible for its development, the result of which depends on the involved bone. For a long bone in a limb, this could mean progression to a complete fracture requiring surgery. For a thoracic vertebral body, permanent deformity due to "wedging" of that vertebra could result.

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Response by:

Brian L Bowyer, MD Brian L Bowyer, MD
Clinical Associate Professor
Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University