Hamlin has fracture in lower back

jutter@charlotteobserver.comMarch 26, 2013 

— NASCAR driver Denny Hamlin has been diagnosed with a fracture of his L1 vertebra, which may require surgery and force him to miss time from the Sprint Cup Series.

Hamlin was released from Loma Linda University Hospital on Monday afternoon to fly home to North Carolina.

He was transported to the hospital after a hard wreck on the last lap of Sunday’s Auto Club 400, in which he slammed into a retaining wall that was not covered by energy-absorbing SAFER barriers.

He remained in the hospital Sunday night for observation.

Joe Gibbs Racing confirmed Hamlin’s back injury in a statement released Monday.

The team said he had what is called an L1 compression fracture; essentially, the first vertebra in the lumbar section of his spine collapsed.

“He will be evaluated by Dr. Jerry Petty of Carolina Neurosurgery & Spine Associates later this week,” the statement said.

Earlier Monday, Hamlin posted a message on his Twitter account – his first since Sunday’s race. It read, “I just want to go home.”

While the JGR statement did not address Hamlin’s recovery, sources close to the team said two options have been discussed – surgery or wearing a back brace to help in healing.

Hamlin has a history of lower back pain.

Both options could require him to miss time in his No. 11 Toyota, sources said.

The Cup series is off this weekend for the Easter holiday and will return to action April  7 at Martinsville, Va.

According to the BACK Center – which specializes in back pain and spine surgery – the most common treatments are pain medications, decreasing activity and bracing.

Vertebra fractures usually take at least three months to fully heal, according to the center.

Hamlin is 10th in the series standings after five races, 54 points behind leader Dale Earnhardt Jr.

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