The lower back is a major pressure point in the body as it connects the trunk to the lower limbs and weight from the entire upper body is transmitted to the legs through the lower back. It is also an area with numerous nerves and the complex nervous system in the spinal cord and from all parts of the body form a conglomerate in this region. It is, therefore, no surprise that when the muscles, ligaments, bones, tendons, and nerves of that region and really any part of the trunk are strained, we tend to feel pain in the lower back. Literally, any type of sports can lead to lower back pain and injury, from running to swimming, golf, football, basketball, tennis, skiing, etc. It is therefore important for people in sports to learn how to prevent lower back pain and injury and also know how to take care of themselves in the event that it occurs.
Lower Back Pain In Football Injury
One in three footballers is said to complain of lower back pain. What are the causes of this high number of affected footballers?
- Spinal Disk Hernia – This is when there is a problem with one of the rubbery cushions (disks) between the individual bones (vertebrae) that stack up to make your spine. These disks that are found between the bones in the spine could slip out and press on any of the nerves in the back especially the sciatic nerve. This could then cause pain, numbness or tingling in the legs, weakness of the muscles in the leg. To help prevent a herniated disk:
- Exercise – Strengthening the trunk muscles helps stabilize and support the spine.
- Maintain a healthy weight –Excess weight puts more pressure on the spine and disks, making them more susceptible to herniation.
- Structural problems – Some players have one longer leg, either from birth or due to a fracture. It’s called a ‘true’ leg length difference or an anatomical short leg and can hamper the way a player pivots and moves.” Rotation of the sacroiliac joint, which is found in the pelvis; or asymmetry of the pelvis are other types of structural problems that could predispose a player to developing pain in the back.
Pain related to structural problems may require regular visits to a physical therapist or team trainer to address proper muscle balance on each side of the body, as well as strengthening and stretching the back muscles.
- Poor posture – Footballers also sit at desks, using screens, playing computer games and watching football matches for prolonged periods. This usually results in poor posture and increased risk of back pain and can affect their game. To prevent this:
- Maintain good posture – Good posture reduces the pressure on your spine and disks. Keep your back straight and aligned, particularly when sitting for long periods. Lift heavy objects properly, making your legs, not your back, do most of the work.
- Get up and move around as regularly as you can – For example, every 10 minutes or so. If you end up having longer periods of being sedentary then doing moves like the Brugger postural relief exercise can help. It can be easily found online.
- Lifestyle – Many footballers drive sports Driving low-seat sports cars all the time makes them lose the natural spinal curvature because the hips are lower than the knees. This can lead to chronic pain.
To prevent this: Break up your journey. Get out of the car every 40 minutes or so, walk around, bend forward, touch your toes and move your back as much as you can. Also, try to get your hips level or slightly higher than your knees when driving. Using a cushion or having people raise the level of the car seat can help.
Lower Back Pain In Teenage Athletes
In teenagers, the mechanism and cause of lower back pain are usually very different from the causes found in adult athletes. They include:
- Fractures of the Lower Back – This is known as Spondylolysis or Spondylolisthesis in the medical world. It can occur from a single high energy impact or over time from the repetitive hyperextension of the lumbar spine. Young athletes are at a higher risk of sustaining these injuries during periods of rapid growth in which muscles and ligaments are unable to keep pace with bone growth. This results in muscle imbalances and decreased flexibility leaving the athlete vulnerable to suffering a compressive force injury.
Eating foods high in calcium and other bone-strengthening minerals can help prevent this as well as warming up before any match.
- Poor technique – Many young athletes are yet to learn the proper technique and this could lead to them straining their muscles in dangerous It could also lead to fractures.
To prevent this, trainers must stress the importance of proper technique and the athletes should also perform regular exercises focused on core body training.
- Excessive training – Particularly during periods of rapid growth, excessive training can lead to a condition known as ‘Posterior element overuse syndrome’, also known as ‘hyperlordotic back pain’ or ‘mechanical/muscular back pain’. This is a combination of conditions involving the posterior spine, including muscle-tendon units, ligaments, and joints due to overuse.
To prevent this, adequate time to rest must be planned into the training schedule. Muscle relaxation techniques must also be learned and applied.
Lower Back Pain In Teenage Girl Athletes
Female athletes are more prone than their male counterparts to small, hairline fractures of the lower (lumbar) spine. The factors that contribute to this include:
- Weak abdominal muscles – Female athletes usually have weaker muscles than their male counterparts and are usually required to perform the same moves. This can lead to a muscle sprains or even a fracture of the spine.
To prevent this, female athletes need to exercise frequently aiming to strengthen their core.
- Natural excessive flexibility – Females are naturally more flexible than males. However, when the spine is extended too much and too frequently, the pressure can lead to microtrauma.
Body mechanics training and a frequent change in routine can help to prevent this.
- Playing through the pain – Unlike men, female athletes are more likely to endure the pain until it is no longer bearable. This is due to social conditioning and pressure and could lead to the detection of serious conditions later.
To prevent this, female young athletes should be coached to quickly notify their physical trainer or sports doctor whenever they feel any pain or discomfort.
- Gynecological disorders and Pregnancy – This is an obvious distinct cause of back pain in female athletes.
A regular check-up and visit to the gynecologist can help to detect gynecological issues faster so that they can be treated accordingly.
Back Pain Doctor Near Me
It’s important to go see a doctor if the pain persists after taking over-the-counter medications. Also, lower back pain that is associated with fever, weight loss might be a serious situation. It’s important to see a doctor as soon as possible to get the right diagnosis and treatment.
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Pinheiro, M. and Machado, G. (2017). Lower back pain app: an exercise programme for the management of low back pain. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 52(8), pp.536-537.
Reed, J. and Wadsworth, L. (2010). Lower Back Pain in Golf. Current Sports Medicine Reports, 9(1), pp.57-59.