Serious Compression Fracture? Your Guide To Surgical Procedures For The Treatment Of Compression Fractures In Athletes

Posted on: 2 October 2015

Spinal injuries, particularly vertebral compression fractures, are common in athletes. Compression fractures, caused by a hard fall or physical injury, are diagnosed when one or more of the vertebra in the spine gets crushed or collapses. The severity of a compression fracture can range from mild to severe. Mild cases do not require surgery and are treated with rest, bracing and physical therapy. Serious cases, however, often need surgical intervention. The type of surgery performed depends primarily on the severity and nature of the injury. Following are a few surgical procedures used in the treatment of compression fractures. 


The least invasive of all compression fracture surgeries, vertebroplasty is a relatively straightforward procedure. During the procedure, the surgeon uses X-ray imaging to get a good look at the injury. Bone cement is then injected into the fracture in an effort to stabilize it and reduce pain. Typically, the cement hardens in about 10 minutes so it isn't a very lengthy surgery. Recovery is also minimal. Most people are able to leave the hospital the next day. However, they still have to wear a brace and go through physical therapy when the time is right. 


Kyphoplasty is very similar to vertebroplasty in that bone cement is used to stabilize the vertebra. Before cement is injected into the bone during this procedure, however, the bone is manipulated. Surgeons insert a small balloon into portions of the bone and inflate it to create a cavity or move the bone into the proper position. Once the bone is shaped and positioned, cement is injected into the cavity or cavities created by the balloon. Both procedures are performed through two small incisions in the back and are considered minimally invasive. 

Spinal Fusion 

Spinal fusion is a serious surgery that involves fusing two or more vertebra together to restrict movement and stabilize the spine. During the surgery, metal screws and plates are driven into the bone in strategic places on the back of the spine. Since it is so invasive, spinal fusion is used as a last resort. And it is reserved for serious compression fractures which have left the bone more than 50 percent compressed. 

While many compression fractures are treated with rest, immobilization and physical therapy, some require surgery. In most cases, minimally-invasive surgery is sufficient to stabilize the spine and restore function. However, spinal fusion is required in severe cases. Regardless of the type of surgery used, all patients must undergo physical therapy and rehabilitation to strengthen their back and improve mobility.

For more information, contact Orthopedic Rehab or a similar location.