Objective: This cohort study aimed to report the compliance of young athletes with nonoperative treatment and to clarify the role of sports modification on clinical outcome of symptomatic spondylolysis.
Design: This study included patients with a chief complaint of low back pain participating in regular sports activity, having spondylolysis, and being treated and followed up between 1990 and 2002 in the authors’ hospital.
Results: One hundred thirty-two athletes were included in this study: 78 males and 54 females. The mean age of the patients was 13 yrs (range, 7–18 yrs). Only 56 patients (42.4%) were compliant to nonoperative treatment. Eighty-six patients (65%) stopped all sports activities for at least 3 mos, and 46 patients (35%) stopped exercising for a variable period of less than 3 mos. The grading of clinical outcome after nonoperative treatment was as follows: excellent in 48 patients (36.4%), good in 74 patients (56.1), fair in 6 patients (4.5%), and poor in 4 patients (3%). The patients who stopped sports for at least 3 mos were 16.39 times more likely to have an excellent result than those who did not stop sports. Bony healing on radiographs did not correlate with clinical outcome.
Conclusions: Timely cessation of sports activity for 3 mos is considered an effective method of nonoperative treatment for young athletes with symptomatic lumbar spondylolysis.