Incidence of back pain in adolescent athletes: a prospective study



Recently, the incidence rate of back pain (BP) in adolescents has been reported at 21%. However, the development of BP in adolescent athletes is unclear. Hence, the purpose of this study was to examine the incidence of BP in young elite athletes in relation to gender and type of sport practiced.


Subjective BP was assessed in 321 elite adolescent athletes (m/f 57%/43%; 13.2 ± 1.4 years; 163.4 ± 11.4 cm; 52.6 ± 12.6 kg; 5.0 ± 2.6 training yrs; 7.6 ± 5.3 training h/week). Initially, all athletes were free of pain. The main outcome criterion was the incidence of back pain [%] analyzed in terms of pain development from the first measurement day (M1) to the second measurement day (M2) after 2.0 ± 1.0 year. Participants were classified into athletes who developed back pain (BPD) and athletes who did not develop back pain (nBPD). BP (acute or within the last 7 days) was assessed with a 5-step face scale (face 1–2 = no pain; face 3–5 = pain). BPD included all athletes who reported faces 1 and 2 at M1 and faces 3 to 5 at M2. nBPD were all athletes who reported face 1 or 2 at both M1 and M2. Data was analyzed descriptively. Additionally, a Chi2 test was used to analyze gender- and sport-specific differences (p = 0.05).


Thirty-two athletes were categorized as BPD (10%). The gender difference was 5% (m/f: 12%/7%) but did not show statistical significance (p = 0.15). The incidence of BP ranged between 6 and 15% for the different sport categories. Game sports (15%) showed the highest, and explosive strength sports (6%) the lowest incidence. Anthropometrics or training characteristics did not significantly influence BPD (p = 0.14 gender to p = 0.90 sports; r2 = 0.0825).


BP incidence was lower in adolescent athletes compared to young non-athletes and even to the general adult population. Consequently, it can be concluded that high-performance sports do not lead to an additional increase in back pain incidence during early adolescence. Nevertheless, back pain prevention programs should be implemented into daily training routines for sport categories identified as showing high incidence rates.


Pain occurrence Young athletes Injury Training volume 

Autor / Fonte:Steffen Mueller, Juliane Mueller, Josefine Stoll, Olaf Prieske, Michael Cassel, Frank Mayer BMC Sports Science, Medicine and Rehabilitation 2016, 8: 38