Can The Doctors Solve Young Athlete's Back Pain Dilemma?

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This 20-year-old loves softball, but severe back pain has put her on the bench. Can The Doctors help relieve her back troubles?

College student Christian has been playing softball “my whole life,” she says – in spite of suffering from persistent back pain since the age of 16, when she injured her back during a championship game. “I’ve tried everything from medicine to shots to rest to bracing. None of it has worked.”

Now Christian is in constant pain. “There are days when it hurts to get out of bed and I can barely walk,” she says. Doctors have given her conflicting diagnoses, from a disc problem to a pars defect.

Watch: Breakthrough Spine Surgery

Then one day she saw a segment on The Doctors about a roller derby competitor who suffered from a pars defect and was helped by surgeon Dr. Hooman Melamed. Christian visited him to see if he could solve her problems as well. “To potentially be able to have softball back is more than I could ever have dreamed of,” says Christian.

Dr. Melamed explains that Christian has a stress fracture in one vertebra, and a bone spur lower down. Working under a microscope, he attaches a hook and screw to stabilize the vertebra and removes the portion of the spur that’s causing her pain. “Everything went excellent!” he says.

Now Dr. Melamed and Christian join The Doctors, three months post-surgery. Christian tells them, “Before surgery, I was dealing with pain on a daily basis, probably a four to a five on the pain scale.” Her worst days could reach an eight. “Now it’s a zero – maybe a one on bad days!”

Watch: Baseball and Softball Safety

But can Christian play softball again? Dr. Melamed says that she just had a CAT scan a few days ago. “It shows the bone has started to heal, but it’s not healed enough for me to say go ahead. And that’s the thing – a lot of time the athletes come back too fast.”

In another three months he’ll do another CAT scan, but in the meantime, it’s up to Christian to get in shape to play again and protect her back. “You’ve got to build up your core, trunk stability, your balance.” Ultimately, the rehab is just as important as the surgery – and Christian says she’s ready to do it!

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