Making Decisions About Home Care

Your Son Has Lost Bladder Control After a Big Football Hit: Is Spinal Compression to Blame?

by Mae Ferguson

After a recent football game, your son has been complaining that he is having trouble controlling his bladder. Did he suffer from a big hit, especially one near his back or one that may have put a lot of pressure on his spinal cord? There's a chance that he may be suffering from spinal compression that causes a rare bladder disorder.

Spinal Compression Is Common in Football

Although helmets and shoulder pads are designed to take much of the shock from big hits in football, there's still a chance that your son's spine may be injured after a big hit. This doesn't necessarily mean that their spine has been severed or that they will suffer from paralysis. Instead, it could mean that it was compressed in certain areas.

Injuries to the spine are common in football, with 70 percent of all college football players saying they suffered from "burners and stingers." This is when a jolt of pain rips through the body when certain areas of the spine are injured. These types of injuries can become more severe over time, and lead to a problem known as neurogenic bladder disorder.

What Is Neurogenic Bladder Disorder?

Neurogenic bladder disorder or NBD is caused when the sacral spine (below the lumbar spine in the lower back) suffers from injury. These nerves are responsible for a variety of functions, key among them bladder sensation and function. Compression of the nerves here can cause your son to be unable to tell when he has to go to the bathroom or to simply lose control of his bladder. Injuries that can lead to this disorder include:

  • Cauda Equina Syndrome – compression of the nerve roots in the lower back
  • Disc herniation
  • Infection
  • Spinal Stenosis
  • Accidents (such as a hard hit in football)

Being struck with this problem is embarrassing and potentially dangerous. The nerves in your son's back may continue to get compressed, which could lead to some paralysis.

Treatment Is Possible

Thankfully, this condition can be treated. However, it is important to get your son to the doctor as soon as possible to get the pressure off of his spine. Treatments that are likely to be prescribed include:

  • Surgical repair of the compressed spinal area
  • Behavior-modification or bladder-relaxing areas
  • Medications that help trigger urination
  • Catheter treatments

The last three treatments are typically prescribed for the period of time when your son is waiting for his surgery. Physical therapy (which may take pressure of the spine) may also be prescribed, but is often avoided if the spinal injury is serious enough. Be sure to talk to a doctor like those at Southwest Florida Neurosurgical & Rehab Associates about all of your son's treatment options.

Does an injury like this prevent your son from playing football? Not necessarily: if the injury wasn't too severe and the surgery was successful, the doctor may okay a return to the field. However, the risk of serious spinal injury often rules out a return.