Over the summer our high school freshman was diagnosed with spondylolysis. He was treated by a physical therapist for a month and sent home with an exercise program to continue until school starts. He's still wearing a brace and it's time to start football practice. Is it safe for him to join the team this soon?

Treatment for spondylolysis varies from doctor to doctor and region to region. It's best to find out what your doctor's protocol is for this problem. Some doctors start patients on rest for two to four weeks and then use a brace. The brace may be prescribed only if the patient has back pain after that.

Exercises are progressed over the first six weeks. Football practice wouldn't be advised until the patient is pain free and at the end of the prescribed exercise program. The doctor may ask the athlete to wear the brace for the first eight to 12 weeks of sports practice.

When the athlete is pain free during the sports activity, then it can be weaned away over several weeks.