Teenagers who played organized youth sports may be at a greater risk of lower back pain than teens who never participated in competitive sports, according to a study in The American Journal of Sports Medicine.
The study added that teenagers who were active in competitive sports since they were young children may have the highest risk of lower back pain.
In this study, researchers examined the responses of approximately 4,667 college students (all 18 years of age) to a questionnaire about participating in competitive sports and experiencing lower back pain.
The teenagers were divided into three groups: students who never played sports, students who moderately played sports at one or two of the following levels (elementary school, junior high and/or high school), or students who were highly active in sport (i.e. they played at all three levels).
According to the study’s findings, 71.1% of the teenagers who were highly active in sports reported experiencing at least one bout of lower back pain in their lives compared to 61.8% of the moderately active students and 50% of the students who never played organized sports.
Nearly 15% of the highly competitive athletes noted back pain that was accompanied with pain and numbness in the legs compared to 8.5% of the moderately active athletes and 4% of the non-athletes.
Roughly 10% of the highly active students said that they missed a day of school because of their back pain in comparison to 5.7% of the moderately active students and 4.4% of the students who never played youth sports.
Of the eight sports that were examined in this study, volleyball was associated with the highest risk of back pain while soccer was tied to the lowest risk of back pain. About 80% of the teenagers who played competitive volleyball reported a past episode of lower back pain while slightly more than 60% of the soccer players had previously experienced back pain.
Based on its findings, the study noted that while children are not advised to skip sports, there needs to be more research and awareness about sports-related postures and motions.
Since exercise is good for the spine, sports may still be a viable option for patients with lower back pain, especially if they are educated on the types of injuries that may occur during specific sports and pay attention to their back while competing.