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Moguls are harder on the back than running

News: Jun 08, 2016

Lower back pain and spinal changes are common among young athletes and the number of spinal changes seems to increase with the sport’s loading level. A doctoral thesis at Sahlgrenska Academy explored this issue that included the study of back pain in mogul skiers and long distance runners.

There are many causes of back pain and a common reason is injury with changes to the spine that normally increase with age. These can be examined using different radiological technologies, with magnetic resonance tomography (MRT) being common.

Previous studies have shown that back problems often occur in athletes at a young age, which can be due to the severe and recurring loading that athletes are exposed to.

Two groups of athletes

In his thesis, Olof Thoreson studied how repetitive loading affects the back, regarding the development of changes to the back and back pain.

Two groups of athletes were selected, based on the different levels of back loading they were exposed to in their sports, and compared with two control groups that were not athletes.

50 % had back pain

“Observational studies were conducted with MRT and the different groups also responded to a questionnaire. The results showed that long distance runners, skiers and one of the control groups had approximately the same incidence of back pain. About half of the participants in the groups had back pain, except for one control group, which had significantly less, only 12 percent had back pain,” says Olof Thoreson, Physician and PhD student at Sahlgrenska Academy.

Mogul skiers, on the other hand, averaged significantly more spinal changes compared to the control subjects of the same age, but no sure difference between runners and the control subjects, could be noted.

Experimental studies

In addition to the observational studies, two experimental studies were conducted on spinal segments from cadaver pigs, where the effects of recurrent loading, backward and forward bending of the spine, was evaluated.

“The results showed that the spinal segments were not weakened by the light, repetitive, compressive loading that they were exposed to during fatigue tests, but that the damages that eventually occurred were localized to the growth zones and end plates,” says Olof Thoreson.

Age and loading level

In short, the thesis shows that both age and loading level have a major effect on the risk of developing back injuries and also what kinds of injuries can occur. It is especially important not to risk overloading, before the spine has achieved full growth.

The need for increased knowledge of the development of back trouble and spinal changes continues to be great, as it is common to all populations and social classes. It is extremely important to develop effective preventative and rehabilitative measures.

The thesis, On the effect of repetitive loading on the spine of young elite athletes, was defended at a disputation on June 3.

Olof Thoreson, PhD student, Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg

Adad Baranto, Associate Professor at Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg


Originally published on: sahlgrenska.gu.se

Contact Information

Department of Orthopaedics

Sahlgrenska University Hospital,, SE 413 45 Gothenburg, Sweden

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Bruna Stråket 11 B 5th floor

46-31-786 6644

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