Evaluation of Athletes with Back or Leg Pain

  • Robert L. Brochin
  • Zoe B. Cheung
  • Andrew C. HechtEmail author


Low back pain (LBP) with or without leg pain in athletes is a significant cause of lost playing time. While the differential diagnosis of LBP in athletes is broad, a thorough history and physical examination are necessary to narrow the differential diagnosis and guide a clinician toward the correct diagnosis. Routine imaging is indicated in the setting of persistent LBP despite conservative treatment, with lumbar spine radiographs being the first line of imaging. The need for further advanced imaging to identify the correct diagnosis – such as MRI and/or CT scan– is determined as clinically warranted. The initial differential diagnosis for LBP in athletes includes orthopedic as well as non-orthopedic etiologies that must all be considered. Orthopedic pathologies discussed in this chapter include musculo-ligamentous injuries, degenerative disc disease, lumbar disc herniation, spondylolysis and spondylolisthesis, and sacral stress fracture.


Back pain Leg pain Radiculopathy Athlete Sport Evaluation Physical examination Imaging Differential diagnosis 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert L. Brochin
    • 1
  • Zoe B. Cheung
    • 1
  • Andrew C. Hecht
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Orthopaedic SurgeryMount Sinai Medical CenterNew YorkUSA

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