This is a very important topic and a concern that many new patients and their parents worry about. My daughter wrote HER OWN RESPONSE to this question in 2016, but it is definitely worth re-visiting. When my daughter was first diagnosed, the only sport that our Orthotist told us to avoid was gymnastics. Both of my kids were in gymnastics at the time, so we decided to point them in another direction. They were still very young and not heavily invested in the sport. I believe the reason for discouraging gymnastics is that there are so many backbends and twists involved and some specialists feel that backbends and twists may increase curves for young developing bodies with Scoliosis.
My daughter played volleyball and basketball throughout middle and high school. She did one season of track and field soon after her fusion surgery, and her field event was the high jump. I did not think this was the best event for her back, but she was fused by that point and she managed just fine with the backbends that were involved. Track and field only last one year, but she did continue with volleyball and basketball. Interestingly enough, she was a setter for volleyball. My impression was that her neck would really hurt from all that reaching back and bending, but she did just fine. In fact, we found out that in our rural, small school conference, there was another girl on an opposing team with a fused spine who was also a setter. So, it was kind of cool when the two teams played because we could marvel at how both girls had overcome so much.
My daughter also has been weight lifting since middle school. She works with her Dad on that, who is a certified strength and conditioning coach. He taught her proper form and puts together her workouts, so I don’t worry too much about that. If your child wants to lift weights, I would stress the importance of learning proper form, but this is good advice for anyone who wants to do weight lifting, not just someone with Scoliosis.
The other difficult thing with having kids who are bracing and doing sports is what to do about the brace during practice, during games, and how to deal with the heat factor. What we did is my daughter would have her practice time as her two hours out of brace every day. Same with games. She would literally pull the thing off right before and put it right on afterward. Some kids may choose to play sports in their braces, and I would love to hear more about that if you or you child has been able to do this effectively. Some sports may not allow it, because a hard brace could injure another player if they are bumped into by accident. Whatever you decide, take the time to speak with the coach outside of practice to discuss strategy when it comes to the brace during practice and/or games. A good coach will modify where is needed and do what they can to accommodate and encourage your child. It is also very important to stay extra hydrated because wearing the brace will raise the body temperature quite a bit more than a child who is playing sports and not wearing a brace.
If you have other tips and tricks for sports while wearing a brace, I would love to hear them in the comments. Remember that life in a brace is a balancing act. Each family will determine what works best. If my daughter was out of her brace a bit more one day, I didn’t worry about it too much. I knew she could wear it more the next day or that occasionally going below the 22 hours per day was not going to make or break her success. Take it a day at a time and find what works best for you. But, there is no reason a child or adult with Scoliosis cannot enjoy all the benefits of sports!