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Return-to-Play Outcomes of Athletes After Operative and Nonoperative Treatment of Lumbar Disc Herniation.

PURPOSE OF REVIEW: Lumbar disc herniation (LDH) is a common injury experienced by athletes and has important clinical considerations for athletes including the timing of return to sport. Lumbar disc herniation may result in loss of individual training and playing time for athletes. Current literature is inconclusive on whether surgical or conservative treatment of LDH is superior in athletes. Our aim was to review the literature to identify return-to-play (RTP) rates and performance outcomes following operative and nonoperative treatment of LDH in the athletic population.

RECENT FINDINGS: Athletes have unique measurements of successful treatment for LDH such as time to return to their sport and performance outcomes that are not as applicable as traditional metrics. It is suggested that surgical treatment may provide a quicker return to sport than nonoperative care in athletes. Additionally, conflicting findings have been seen in career length and performance status based on sport, often due to short and tumultuous career patterns. These differences may be seen based on the unique physical demands of each sport, different motivations to prolong sport, or other confounding factors that could not be controlled for or unrelated to LDH. Recent literature on RTP outcomes in athletes treated for LDH show variable results based on sport. Further research is needed to assist physicians and athletes in making the decision to undergo conservative or surgical treatment of LDH in the athletic population.

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