Many sports-related spinal disorders of the adolescent athlete have been extensively researched and, as a result, are well understood. A plethora of information is available to clinicians on conditions such as muscular strains, ligamentous sprains, spondylolysis/spondylolisthesis, and acute vertebral fractures involving the vertebral body, spinous process, or transverse processes. Less understood conditions exist, however, and for best management to occur, an accurate diagnosis is critical. Athletes are often anxious to get back into competition, putting pressure on the clinician to quickly diagnose and treat athletic injuries. However, it is imperative that the clinician be alerted to less obvious traumatic conditions that, if not recognized early, cannot only adversely affect athletic performance but may also compromise long-term spinal health. The initial plain film radiographic findings of some of these traumatic spinal injuries in the adolescent can be very subtle, therefore easily overlooked, and may lead to mismanagement of the athlete. This article will review the imaging features of two more commonly misunderstood conditions: the acute traumatic intraosseous disc herniation and the ring apophyseal fracture, both of which more commonly occur in the adolescent athlete than the non-athlete.
Key Words: Adolescent athlete, pediatric trauma, traumatic intraosseous disc herniation, Scheuermann’s disease, ring apophyseal fracture, posterior limbus vertebra, Schmorl’s node, posterior Schmorl’s node, anterior Schmorl’s node.
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