Parents and coaches should encourage diverse athletic activities to reduce kids' risk of back pain

May 6 2011
While being a mom comes with its own set of risks for low back pain, it turns out that kids are not immune from this condition, either. In fact, young athletes may be exposing themselves to back injury risk, simply by focusing too much on one sport, according to a new study. 

The research was conducted by experts from Loyola University Health System and relied on the analysis of 154 athletes, with an average age of 13, who practiced all types of sports. While examining these young individuals, the researchers noted that those who were injured were significantly more likely to be practicing only one sport, as defined by their average score on a sports specialization scale.

The measure takes into account characteristics such as training in one sport more than 75 percent of the time, quitting other sports to focus on one athletic activity, considering that activity to be more important than other sports, and training for more than eight months out of a year or competing for more than six months.

Dr. Neeru Jayanthi, medical director of primary care sports medicine at Loyola and senior author of the study, explained that while uninjured youngsters in the study group averaged 2.75 on the six-point scale, those who sustained contusions were at 3.49, on average.

These results stress the importance for active teens and their parents, as well as physical education teachers and coaches, to make sure that young athletes get well-rounded workouts. This should start with proper warm ups and cool downs that involve back stretches, and include exercises that strengthen and tone all major muscle groups.

This approach may prevent back pain symptoms from developing or carrying into adulthood, when they can diminish athletes' quality of life. According to the National Institutes of Health, back pain is one of the most common medical complaints, as it affects 8 out of 10 people at some point during their lives and necessitates surgery in the most severe cases.