Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Lower Spine News

Athletes, Look Forward When Watching Your Back

Are you at risk for a back injury? The most common predictor of back injury for all adults is a previous or current low back injury. This is true for the general population and for athletes. For adults, job dissatisfaction and previous or current low back injury are two of the most well-known risk factors. For athletes, dissatisfaction with coaching staff or team players does not seem to have any relation to back injury.

In a study of 679 college athletes, "back injury" was defined as any low back pain that caused an athlete to miss part or all of practice or games on three separate occasions. In addition, athletes had to be seen by a sports physician. Ninety percent of these injuries were sports-related.

Athletes who had low back pain were three to six times more likely to have another back injury in the following season or year. This was true for both men and women, and for contact and noncontact sports.

This is an important finding for players, coaches, and trainers. It should be strongly considered during the preseason sports screening. Back injury usually involves the soft tissues such as ligaments and muscles. Injury to these structures can change how quickly the muscles contract. When the trunk muscles take extra time to respond to a sudden load, injury is more likely.

Designing a program of preventive exercises may be helpful, even for athletes who have already returned to competition. Such a program takes into consideration that the ability to make sudden movements may not be immediately restored after a back injury.


Hunter S. Greene, MD, et al. A History of Low Back Injury Is a Risk Factor for Recurrent Back Injuries in Varsity Athletes. In The American Journal of Sports Medicine. November/December 2001. Vol. 29. No. 6. Pp. 795-800.

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*Disclaimer:* The information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read in this topic.
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