Can You Play Sports after Spondylolisthesis Surgery?

Question: My daughter is 17. Last year, she had minimally invasive spine surgery to correct grade IV spondylolisthesis. She’s extremely athletic. I want nothing but the best for her, and I’m worried about her health in the future. Will she be able to be active and return to sports, or will this surgery prevent her from living a normal, healthy life?
─Evanston, IL  
Set of sport balls isolated on white backgroundAnswer: This is a great question—one I often get from parents worried about whether their child can return to a normal, healthy lifestyle after spondylolisthesis surgery.

My advice to you and your daughter is to be patient with her recovery. Yes, she had surgery last year, but it helps to know that people recover from spine surgery at different rates, and that’s okay. Your daughter may be one of those people who recovers more slowly. But it all just really depends on the person.

Also, check in with her doctor about how soon she can return to her active lifestyle. Even though she may feel she’s ready to resume her normal activities, her body might not be.

Gradually, she’ll be able to return to her normal routine, but the most important thing to remember with spine surgery recovery is to never rush into physical activity. Forcing yourself to work too hard too fast can actually lead to more problems in the long run.

And as far as returning to sports, it’s ultimately up to your child’s doctor to determine whether she’s ready. You certainly want to be careful that she doesn’t re-injure herself and that she is fully recovered before she starts up with sports again.

If your child’s doctor hasn’t already suggested it, she may benefit from doing physical therapy. This can help re-train and strengthen all of her muscles—not just the ones in her back. Physical therapy can also help ensure your daughter’s recovery is coming along nicely.

In addition to physical therapy, her doctor can recommend other treatments (eg, medications) that can help her on her road to recovery from spine surgery.

With a little patience and a lot of rest, your child will be better positioned for a full recovery from her minimally invasive spine surgery for spondylolisthesis.