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Mechanical Low Back Pain in Elite Track and Field Athletes: An observational cohort study.

OBJECTIVE: The aim of the study was to gain information about the incidence of mechanical Low Back Pain (MLBP) injuries etiology in elite track and field athletes and to assess the recurrence rate.

BACKGROUND: The prevalence and the etiology of Low Back Pain (LBP) in athletic populations at the elite level of competition lack of longitudinal studies focused on certain sport fields. The present study evaluates MLBP incidents in elite track and field athletes visiting National Track and Field Centre in Thessaloniki, Greece and classifies MLBP according to etiology.

METHODS: One hundred and thirty Elite Track and Field Athletes with MLBP injuries were included in a 20-year observational cohort study recording the initial MLBP etiology according to a classification system based on mechanical diagnosis. It was examined if age, gender and sport category predispose the incidence of the initial MLBP etiology and if they consist risk factors for MLBP recurrence.

RESULTS: Discogenic MLBP in elite track and field athletes was significantly higher at 46.9% (α= 0.05) compared with the other MLBP etiologies under consideration. Secondary findings of the present study regarding the incidence of MLBP etiology categories did not reveal significant associations with gender, age and contest categories (α= 0.05). Additionally, recurrence pathophysiology showed that discogenic MLBP obtained high recurrence rates at 0.48 (14 athletes from 29 athletes recurred) compared with other etiologies, followed by back elements injury recurrence rate at 0.24 (7 athletes out of 29).

CONCLUSIONS: The study provided us with evidence of higher incidence of discogenic etiology of MLBP in elite track and field athletes. Further research is suggested in the use of etiology related LBP classification system in order to evaluate causes, prevalence and epidemiology of MLBP in athletic populations of specific sport categories.

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