I am a
Home I AM A Search Login

Papers of the Week


Front Physiol


Is There a Relationship Between Workload and Occurrence of Back Pain and Back Injuries in Athletes?


Zemková E, Kováčiková Z, Zapletalová L
Front Physiol. 2020; 11:894.
PMID: 32792989.


The back is subjected to a great deal of strain in many sports. Up to 20% of all sports injuries involve an injury to the lower back or neck. Repetitive or high impact loads (e.g., running, gymnastics, skiing) and weight loading (e.g., weightlifting) affect the lower back. Rotation of the torso (e.g., golf, tennis) causes damage to both, the lumbar and thoracic spine. The cervical spine is most commonly injured in contact sports (e.g., boxing, football). One of the factors that increases the odds of injuries in athletes is excessive and rapid increases in training loads. In spite of currently emerging evidence on this issue, little is known about the balance between physiological loading on the spine and athletic performance, versus overloading and back pain and/or injury in athletes. This scoping review aims (i) to map the literature that addresses the association between the training load and the occurrence of back pain and/or injury, especially between the Acute:Chronic Workload Ratio (ACWR) and back problems in athletes of individual and team sports, and (ii) to identify gaps in existing literature and propose future research on this topic. A literature search of six electronic databases (i.e., MEDLINE, PubMed, Web of Science, SCOPUS, SportDiscus, and CINAHL) was conducted. A total of 48 research articles met the inclusion criteria. Findings identified that fatigue of the trunk muscles induced by excessive loading of the spine is one of the sources of back problems in athletes. In particular, high training volume and repetitive motions are responsible for the high prevalence rates. The most influential are biomechanical and physiological variations underlying the spine, though stress-related psychological factors should also be considered. However, limited evidence exists on the relationship between the ACWR and back pain or non-contact back injuries in athletes from individual and team sports. This may be due to insufficiently specified the acute and chronic time window that varies according to sport-specific schedule of competition and training. More research is therefore warranted to elucidate whether ACWR, among other factors, is able to identify workloads that could increase the risk of back problems in athletes.