A common concern for any athlete in need of spinal fusion surgery to relieve persistent back pain is whether or not they will be able to resume their active lifestyle after the procedure is performed. It takes about three months for the fusion to achieve its intended maturity, meaning that an immediate return to sports is not realistic.
Activity will Initially be Restricted
In order to give the fusion time to heal and become settled, doctors usually restrict physical activity during the recovery period. This means no heavy lifting, twisting or bending of the lower back, and certainly can’t play sports due to the risk of easily damaging the fusion.
Return to Sports Based on Anatomical Characteristics
While the back does have a supportive muscular envelope that generally provides a greater level of protection from further injury, the decision to allow an athlete to return to sports depends on several factors, such as the type of sport being played. Anatomical features such as muscularity, and height and weight are also determining factors.
Determinations Based on an Individual Basis
Due to legal concerns, some physicians tend to be more cautious when it comes to telling an athlete that they can go back to playing sports. Research is still incomplete when it comes to returning to sports following back surgery, so it’s a decision that comes down to individual capabilities. As minimally invasive spine procedures become more commonplace, however, recovery times may decrease and athletes may be able to get back in the game sooner.
The most important factor when it comes to determining when it’s safe to play sports again is how closely post-operative care instructions are followed. Even after given the okay to play again, it’s imperative to use protective equipment, avoid risks as much as possible and report any pain to a doctor.
Alternatives to Spinal Fusion Procedures
Along with minimally invasive surgical procedures, there are now many non-fusion options that studies and clinical trials show can reduce operative time, promote a faster healing period and help an athlete maintain his or her range of motion, when compared to traditional spinal fusions. For more information on non-fusion spine surgery, reach out to Dr. Bae and his team at The Spine Institute Center for Spinal Restoration. Dr. Bae specializes in minimally invasive and non-fusion procedures, providing active patients with the best chance for returning to their sport-filled lifestyles.
To request more information or an in-person consultation, call (310) 828-7757 today.