During recent years, as many as five Norwegian Olympic medal winners in cross-country skiing have undergone surgery because of low back pain. Based on these high-profile cases it has been speculated that low back injury may represent an occupational hazard for cross-country skiing on the elite level. A new study from the Oslo Sports Trauma Research Center published in the new issue of Spine compares the prevalence of low back pain between endurance sports with different loading characteristics on the spine: Cross-country skiing, rowing, and orienteering. The results show that symptoms were somewhat more common in skiing and rowing, and that they were related to training load and technique.
|Does low back injury represent an occupational hazard for cross-country skiing on the elite level? |
The study was designed as a cross-sectional survey among athletes competing at the national elite level in cross-country skiing, rowing and orienteering, and also included a matched non-athletic control group. Although it is claimed that back pain is a frequent problem in endurance sports loading the lower spine such as rowing or cross-country skiing, the prevalence of low back problems in such sports
has not previously been compared with relevant control groups. Therefore, a self-reporting questionnaire on low back pain adapted for sports based on standardised Nordic questionnaires for musculoskeletal symptoms was given to all athletes participating in the senior and junior Norwegian championships of the three sports and the sample included 257 cross-country skiers (response rate: 100%), 199 rowers (99.5%), 278 orienteerers (99.3%) and 197 control subjects (66%).
The results showed that low back pain was reported to be somewhat more common among cross-country skiers and rowers than orienteerers and non-athletic controls. The prevalence among cross-country skiers of reported low back pain ever (65.4%) and low back pain during the previous 12 months (63.0%) was higher than non-athletic controls (OR [95% CI]: 1.94 [1.29-2.92]. Rowers (25.6%) reported missing training because of low back pain more frequently than orienteerers did (13.7%, OR: 2.16 [1.25-3.74]).
The athletes reported more low back pain during periods when training and competition load was higher, and cross-country skiers more frequently reported having low back problems using classic than freestyle skiing techniques. The study therefore concludes that low back pain appears to be somewhat more common in endurance sports that specifically load the low back during training and competition. The relationship between seasonal training patterns and specific skiing techniques indicate that there is a relationship between LBP and the specific loading patterns of skiing and rowing.
The principal investigator for the study was professor Roald Bahr, the chair of the Oslo SportsTrauma Research Center. Graduate student Stig Ove Andersen MSc at the Norwegian University of Sport and Physical Education was responsible for the data collection among orienteerers and skier, working in cooperation with Bjørn Fossan and Torger Hansen, the national ski team physical therapists. Dr.Sverre Løken, who himself is a former national team rower, was responsible for the data collection among the rowers.Tone Rasmussen Øritsland has been the data manager for the study.
Read the article here.