Jock Doc

Teen’s football blocking is hurting his back. Is it serious?

Q. My son is a 17-year-old lineman who just started his high school football season two weeks ago. He has developed pain in his lower back that gets worse whenever he is blocking. He had this pain last year, but it went away when he stopped playing football. However, this year it seems a lot worse and he has already sat out of practice twice. The trainer says it is just a lower back strain and he can play soon. I am worried it is more than that and wonder what I should have my son do?

A. I too am concerned that your son has more than just a lower back strain. This injury has occurred before but this time recurred faster and with more severity. Although this could just be a lumbosacral strain, I think you should see the team physician, an orthopedic surgeon or a spine specialist. The stance while blocking puts significant stress on the lower back, and this can result in an injury to the disc or a stress fracture. The doctor may order X-rays or even a CT scan or MRI scan to establish the correct diagnosis. A muscle strain can be treated with rest and rehab. A stress fracture usually requires a long period of rest or even bracing to heal. A herniated disc may also require rest, rehab and occasionally surgery to resolve the symptoms.

Dr. Harlan Selesnick is team physician of the Miami Heat and director of Miami Sports Medicine Fellowship, Doctors Hospital. Send questions to