Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Lower Spine News

Pinning the Blame for Low Back Pain in Wrestlers on Muscle Weakness

Wrestlers have just as much back pain as any other competitive athlete. The question is, what causes it? Sometimes X-rays show a structural problem. Is this the cause? Or is back pain linked to muscle weakness of the trunk? That's what the authors of this study tried to find out.

They studied two groups of wrestlers. All subjects had chronic low back pain (LBP). One group had normal spine X-rays. A second group had X-ray findings such as disc problems and spondylolysis. Spondylolysis is a condition affecting the vertebra. In spondylolysis, a small crack or fracture occurs in the pillar of bone that connects the body of the vertebra to the facet joints of the spine.

Trunk muscle strength was measured using a special machine called the Biodex System3. Each wrestler moved the trunk in a bending and extending pattern at three different speeds. This measured the strength of the trunk flexors and trunk extensors. All the wrestlers were asked questions about their back function and ability to do daily activities.

The authors found that most of the trunk muscle strength was the same in both groups. There was no difference between the two groups in terms of trunk flexor strength. Only the group with normal X-rays showed a link between decreased extensor strength and level of disability.

The authors conclude that abnormalities in the spine seen on X-ray are not the cause of low back pain and disability among wrestlers. It's more likely that poor muscle strength may be the real culprit. This may explain why wrestlers are injured when lifting their opponents in an attempt to pin them.

Wrestling is a high-risk contact sport. Improving strength of the trunk extensors may help prevent back pain and disability in this group of athletes.

Kazunori Iwai, et al. Trunk Muscle Strength and Disability Level of Low Back Pain in Collegiate Wrestlers. In Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. August 2004. Vol. 36. No. 8. Pp. 1296-1300.


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