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Lumbar spine abnormalities and facet joint angles in asymptomatic elite junior tennis players

journal contribution
posted on 2020-12-15, 02:47 authored by Molly ConnollyMolly Connolly, AH Rotstein, J Roebert, R Grabinski, F Malara, T O’Shea, T Wood, M Omizzolo, S Kovalchik, M Reid
© 2020, The Author(s). Background: Lumbar spine abnormalities, in particular stress fractures to the pars interarticularis, are common in elite junior tennis players, though the difference in prevalence between males and females remains unclear. Further, facet joint orientation appears to be a possible option for recognizing which players might go on to present with a pars stress fracture. Given the link between pars stress fractures and low back pain in tennis players, it appears logical to explore the link between facet joint angle and pars abnormalities. Thus, the purpose of this study was to describe the prevalence of lumbar spine abnormalities and explore the relationship between facet joint orientation and pars abnormalities in elite adolescent tennis players. Methodology: Lumbar spine MRI images of 25 elite junior tennis players were obtained and distributed between five radiologists for analysis. Descriptive comparisons and confidence intervals were used to describe the prevalence of the abnormalities. A generalized linear regression model was conducted to investigate the relationship between lumbar pars abnormalities and lumbar facet joint angles. Results: Sixteen (64%) of 25 players were found to have at least one lumbar spine abnormality. Pars abnormalities affected 36% of players while bone marrow edema was found in 24% of players. Disc herniation, disc degeneration, and facet joint degeneration were diagnosed in 20%, 44%, and 24% of players respectively. Lastly, one player (4%) was diagnosed with spondylolisthesis. Females had significantly larger facet joint angles across L3/4 L5/S1 compared to males (p < 0.01). Further, those who had pars abnormalities had larger facet joint angles compared to those who did not (p < 0.001). Conclusion: Disc degeneration, pars abnormalities, including bone marrow edema, and facet joint degeneration were common findings among elite adolescent tennis players. Additionally, this study is the first to discover that pars abnormalities are linked to facet joint angle in elite adolescent tennis players. This finding might assist in identifying tennis players at a greater risk of developing lumbar spine pars abnormalities in the future.


Publication Date



Sports Medicine - Open





Article Number



10p. (p. 1-10)


Springer Nature



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