Study: Young athletes have high rate of sports-related low back pain injury

ORLANDO, Fla.— Researchers have found that low back pain is the third most common sports-related injury in young athletes after knee and ankle injuries, according to a study presented at the American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference and Exhibition.

“If a young athlete has lower back pain for 2 weeks or longer, it is imperative that the athlete be evaluated by a sports medicine physician,” Neeru Jayanthi, MD, from Loyola Stritch School of Medicine in Maywood, Ill., stated in a press release. “If a serious injury such as a stress fracture is not properly treated and does not heal properly, the athlete could be at risk for long-term back problems.”

Jayanthi and colleagues performed a multicenter, prospective cohort study of 1,206 participants who were between 8 years and 18 years old. The study followed 837 participants with 859 unique injuries and 360 uninjured participants who acted as controls, according to the abstract. Low back injuries accounted for 127 injuries. Overall, 39% of the back injuries were serious, including stress fractures and complications of stress fractures, such as spondylolysis and spondylolisthesis.

Children with back injuries spent an average of 12.7 hours per week playing sports, while the average for all injured children was 11.3 hours per week. Apart from hyperextension and performing techniques improperly, Jayanthi said the greatest risk for all sports-related injuries was the athlete specializing and training intensively in a single sport.

“We should be cautious about intense specialization in one sport before and during adolescence,” Jayanthi said.

Reference:

Jayanthi N. Abstract #21503. Presented at: American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference and Exhibition; Oct. 26-29, 2013; Orlando, Fla.

Disclosure: The authors received grants from the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine to conduct this study.