Epidural injections may be effective for lumbar disc herniations


February 15, 2012

Topic: Orthopaedic sports medicine

Accidents are prone to occurring in the heat of the game, and when they are particularly bad, it can have long-lasting repercussions on a player's ability going forward.

A study conducted with members of a professional American football team demonstrated that epidural steroid injections make an efficient treatment for lumbar disc herniations. This provides orthopaedic sports medicine patients with one more viable therapeutic option, as reported at the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine's Specialty Day.

"Our study showed an 89 percent success rate in athletes returning to play after suffering an injury during practice or a game," said researcher Aaron Krych, M.D. "These injections are a safe initial therapy in athletes that do not have neurological deficits, allows them to participate effectively in physical therapy sooner and can significantly reduce the time a player misses."

For the study, the researchers examined the medical data of 17 football players who were injured between 2003 and 2010. Treatment with triamcinolone and anesthetic was associated with an average loss of 2.8 practices and 0.6 games. However, this treatment is not suitable for extensive injuries that require surgical treatment.

"These injections are effective for decreasing limb pain associated with disc herniations and allows earlier participation in therapy and facilitates a quicker return to play," said David E. LeMay, M.D., physical medicine and rehabilitation physician at the Andrews Institute for Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine.

A disc herniation occurs when one of these jelly-filled cushions, found in the spaces between the vertebrae, ruptures. The damage may put a lot of painful pressure on the surrounding nerves, according to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, a division of the National Institutes of Health.

Such injuries are common in sports that involve direct contact and twisting motions, according to the researchers.


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