My daughter is 17. We just found out about two months ago that she had two back fractures (L4, L5), two herniated discs, and two bulging discs. She has been diagnosed with spinal stenosis. She is a competitive cheerleader and is pretty stubborn about giving up the sport. She attended one of the biggest competitions of the year about two weeks ago and went ahead and did all of the stuff she normally does, but with extreme pain. About a week before the competition, she started experiencing sciatica so I took her back to see her orthopedic surgeon, who gave her pain pills (Tylenol w/codeine). This got her through the first day of the competition without too much pain, but the second day...she was in extreme pain and didn't even think she was going to make it through, but somehow she did.
As a mom, I am so worried about paralysis. I think she needs to quit cheer altogether, but she is one of the best in her sport and feels like it is almost impossible to give up. Her doctor basically said..."If she was an Olympic athlete, I'd let her perform and we'd take care of it later." We returned to see him last week, only to find out that she is not a candidate for surgery. Apparently she does not have enough cartilage to be able to hold the discs in place if she were to have surgery. It seems kind of hard to believe that there is not a procedure that will allow discs to be put back in place with some kind of man-made device. Not that I am wishing for surgery on a young person, but this is a person who still has alot of energy and dreams left in her. She will be a senior next year and she wants to be able to cheer in college. Cheering in college will actually be less demanding than what she does now, so I almost wish she'd take a full year off to rest and hope there is some healing in the process. Her coaches, on the other hand, talked her into joining for another season.
They have seen how she pushes through her injury and they admire her persistence. I do not...she does not realize that she may be setting herself up for a life of back pain if she doesn't take care of herself.
She is currently attending physical therapy twice a week. Her physical therapist said that she has a back of an 80-year old. (I don't know if he says that to every one of his patients because he said it to one of her friends too.) The physical therapy does seem to be helping. She is not experiencing sciatica symptoms like she was and she is doing the exercises he asked her to do at home. Before, she was crying and sleeping alot because it hurt so bad. She wouldn't even go up the stairs to her room because it was just easier to sleep on the couch. Now she is back to sleeping in her bed, but she is still taking pain pills to help her pain subside so she can sleep. She wakes up in the middle of the night to take a 2nd one if the pain is too bad.
The orthopedic surgeon will see her again in about 5 weeks. I guess my question to you is...should I be seeking a 2nd opinion? Should I be taking her to see a neurologist? I am aware that she will never have the full-mobility that she had prior to her injury. (We think it's from over the years of repetitive tumbling...she's been doing this since she was 6.) We think the fractures occurred at a competition just before this last competition, where she collided in the air with another tumbler. She has had back pain for about 6 months, but it did not get really bad until about three months ago. She seems to have an extremely high pain tolerance so I am not sure that she truly realizes her limits. Are there any other young athletes that have dealt with this kind of pain and they've been able to pursue their sport after some type of therapy or surgery?