University of Oregon

Department of Human Physiology Graduate Studies in Athletic Training and Sports Medicine

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Vertebral Endplate Changes in College Football Players

Katie Green MS, ATC, CAT(C)

Changes in endplate concavities have been investigated within non-pathological sedentary populations and football players. These concavities have been labeled as hyperconcavity of the lumbar vertebral endplates and increased disc space (HEPS), Cupid’s Bows and balloon discs. HEPS has been hypothesized to result from axial loading on the spine, but the causes of these concavities and their implications remain unclear.

Non-blocking football position players will demonstrate a lower incidence of HEPS when compared to linemen due to their lack of blocking and line play, and therefore, lower magnitude of axial loading. Study Design: This is a cross-sectional study.

Twenty-two linemen and 15 non-blocking position players completed a History Questionnaire and a standing lateral lumbar x-ray. Results: Non-blocking players have a similar incidence of HEPS (40%), when compared to linemen (36%). Concavity apexes were centrally and posteriorly located in 59.3% and 38% of endplates, respectively, and most dominant at inferior L3 and inferior L5.

Football line play and blocking do not appear to increase the incidence of HEPS when compared to players who do not engage in these activities. In addition, this adaptation does not appear to be a characteristic of larger people, making its proposed relationship to increased levels of growth hormone less likely. The magnitude of concavity, location on the endplate and occurrence predominantly on the inferior L3 and L5 endplates suggest causative factors that are different from a sedentary control population.

Key Terms:
HEPS, lumbar spine, vertebral endplates, concavity, football.