Back injuries. They seem to be the scourge of professional sports these days, but it is relatively rare to see the same back injury suffered by two young studs in different sports. Or is it? Let’s take a look at whether Gabe Vilardi and Fernando Tatis, Jr., have experienced the same back injury – specifically, a stress fracture in the lower back known as spondylolysis.
Gabe Vilardi Back Injury
Gabe Vilardi was picked eleventh overall in the 2017 NHL Draft by the Los Angeles Kings. Vilardi was viewed with great anticipation by the fans and organization because he was considered NHL-ready and could provide some much-needed youth to a roster growing long in the tooth.
Unfortunately, Vilardi has yet to play a single game for the Kings as we approach the 2020-1 NHL season. His professional career has consisted of four starts at the AHL level on a rehab assignment, not exactly what the Kings were hoping for, to say the least.
So, what happened?
We know Gabe has a back injury. The exact nature of the back injury is a bit of a mystery because “Fortress Kings” doesn’t exactly provide much information to fans. However, there has been much conjecture, including by moi, that Vilardi is suffering from a condition known as spondylolysis – a fancy way of saying a lower back stress fracture. We cover the topic in this Gabe Vilardi injury update post and this video:
Do we know for sure that Vilardi has spondylolysis? No, but the condition and course of treatment tracks with how we’ve seen Vilardi handled the last year plus.
Fernando Tatis, Jr. Injury
Fernando Tatis, Jr., is a rookie shortstop for the San Diego Padres. And he’s excellent with stats projecting out to 40 home runs and 100 plus runs batted in over a full season. Most commentators believe he is in the running for rookie of the year and has one of the brighter futures in the game.
Tatis, Jr., also presents us with an example where we can see spondylolysis occur in a real-world situation. On August 14, 2019, the Padres were playing the Tampa Bay Rays. Tatis, Jr. was up to bat and, well, the kid takes healthy swings. Take a look at what happened:
What is Spondylolysis?
So, what is spondylolysis? While there are detailed medical explanations, the basic idea is that the bone structure in the lower back suffers stress fractures from the player torquing their back. I was surprised to learn that athletes in their teens and even early twenties are susceptible to the injury because the bones in the lower back are not fully mature. Put in simple terms, the bones are not completely hard, and thus susceptible to trauma. For this reason, athletes in sports where the back is taxed tend to suffer the injury – gymnasts, offensive and defensive linemen in football, and hockey players who shoot a lot. The larger you are, the more likely you are to have problems.
How To Fix Spondylolysis
How do you fix spondylolysis? The good news it the condition heals on its own in the vast majority of cases. The “treatment” is not to play sports, not tax the back, and undergo rehab exercises designed to strengthen your core. The stronger your core muscles, the more of the physical burden of playing sports they can take off the lower back bone structure.
If a player has suffered repetitive or severe spondylolysis, a physician may recommend surgery. The goal of the operation is to add support structures, such as a screw through the bones, to help stabilize the impacted area. Surgery is a rare event, but surgeons consider it a simple procedure even when undertaken.
How Long Does It Take Spondylolysis To Heal
There is no set time for spondylolysis to heal. Some people recover in a month or two. Others take as long as a year. With professional athletes such as Vilardi and Tatis, Jr., one tends to think their organizations will give each player plenty of time to get back on their feet. In the case of Vilardi, Gabe hasn’t skated in eight months, although we believe he suffered a rather nasty stress fracture. Tatis likely has until the next baseball season starts, which is a solid seven to eight months.
Are you still confused? Take a look at what this surgeon has to say on the topic.
Back injuries are a bitch. Even a muscle pull can leave you bedridden for days. Hopefully, both Gabe Vilardi and Fernando Tatis, Jr., recover from their stress fractures without complications so we can see them playing soon.