Spondylolytic spondylolisthesis. Wow that is a mouthful! Okay, now for a translation of the words, that should help to make things a little clearer.
Spondylo means vertebra, lytic means to burst, and listhesis means to slip. So the word translates to a burst and slipped vertebra! Yikes! that doesn’t sound very good! Actually, there are many people walking around with this and have no idea at all.
This condition has numerous causes, and in fact has been classified into 6 different categories. What we are going to discuss today is the lytic type that affects the pars interarticularis. The mechanism of injury for this type is thought to be from repetitive cycling of the vertebra between flexion and extension. This cycling motion creates either a stress fracture or a complete break through the posterior arch of the vertebra called the pars interarticularis. To understand this better, think of when you are trying to break a “green” stick. You bend it back and forth, back and forth, until it finally snaps. Well this is essentially the same phenomenon that takes place in the spine. An activity such as gymnastics, with all of the tumbling and flipping, football lineman in going from a 3 point stance to make contact with the player across the line of scrimmage, and pole vaulters arching up and over the bar, are all considered high risk activities for spondylo’s.
In this episode we follow the story of Jessica. She is a 17 year old student at one of the local high schools. She is a volleyball player with scholarships to 3 colleges to play ball for them. She is also on several club teams in the area, so she is on the court 6 days a week. With all of the training, playing in matches, and time spent in the weightroom, she has developed a spondylolytic spondylolisthesis.