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Ossification of the ligamentum flavum in the thoracic spine mimicking sciatica in a young baseball pitcher:a case report

  • Kato Kinshi
    Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Fukushima Medical University School of Medicine
  • Yabuki Shoji
    Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Fukushima Medical University School of Medicine
  • Otani Koji
    Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Fukushima Medical University School of Medicine
  • Nikaido Takuya
    Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Fukushima Medical University School of Medicine
  • Otoshi Ken-ichi
    Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Fukushima Medical University School of Medicine Department of Sport Medicine, Fukushima Medical University School of Medicine
  • Watanabe Kazuyuki
    Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Fukushima Medical University School of Medicine
  • Kikuchi Shin-ichi
    Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Fukushima Medical University School of Medicine
  • Konno Shin-ichi
    Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Fukushima Medical University School of Medicine

Abstract

<p>Thoracic ossification of the ligamentum flavum (OLF) is a pathological condition that causes myelopathy, with unilateral lower extremity pain rarely a feature in the presenting complaint. Moreover, most symptomatic cases of thoracic OLF occur in middle-aged men, with younger individuals rarely affected. We present a rare case of severe and chronic unilateral buttock and leg pain mimicking sciatica due to thoracic OLF in a professional baseball pitcher. A 28-year-old, right-handed, Japanese professional baseball pitcher experienced intractable left leg pain with numbness and spasticity. After the initial presentation, extensive testing focusing on lumbar, hip, and pelvis lesions failed to identify a cause for the pain. One year after onset, careful neurological examination showed signs of upper motor neuron disturbance, and thoracic computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging revealed thoracic OLF at the level of the thoracolumbar junction. After resection of the thoracic OLF, the pain, numbness, and spasticity completely resolved. He resumed full training and was pitching in top condition within four months after surgery. Though rare, thoracic OLF should be considered in the differential diagnosis of lower extremity pain in young athletes, especially amongst high-level baseball pitchers.</p>

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