Patient Stories

B. Thomas Mazahery, MD

As a competitive volleyball player, Kelsey is used to playing through pain. So when she felt some twinges in her back during a tournament with her Virginia Elite Volleyball Club, she ignored them. “I thought my muscles were sore after sitting out the previous year with Lyme disease,” says Kelsey, who was a senior at Westfield High School at the time. “But as the game progressed, the pain got worse and worse. At the end of the day I could barely move.”

After resting for three weeks, Kelsey returned to the volleyball court, and so did her back pain. She and her mom decided it was time to consult an orthopaedic surgeon. They chose Thomas Mazahery, MD, who specializes in degenerative spine conditions, cervical spine pathology and trauma at OrthoVirginia. No sooner had Kelsey described her symptoms to Dr. Mazahery than he made his diagnosis: spondylolysis. An X-ray and bone scan confirmed a double stress fracture in L5 of her lower lumbar spine.

Spondylolysis is most common in adolescent athletes, particularly those involved in flexion/extension activities such as gymnastics, football, soccer or volleyball. Like the vast majority of patients with the condition, Kelsey did not need surgery. Dr. Mazahery put her in a back brace for several months to allow her stress fractures to heal. Once the brace was off, she had some physical therapy to ease back into athletics and improve her core strength.

Now she’s back on the volleyball court, playing for the University of Wisconsin at Madison, where she’s a freshman.

“This is the Big 10, so it’s very competitive,” she says. “Fortunately, I’m playing at the same level as I was before. Thanks to the great care from Dr. Mazahery and OrthoVirginia, my back pain is completely gone.”