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Low back pain in youth weightlifters

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Summary of a study looking at the changes in low back pain degeneration and low back pain in youth Olympic weightlifters.

Who

12 Olympic weightlifting athletes (females 6, males 6) aged 11.4 ± 2.0 years and 2.2 ± 0.7 years of competition history at the start of the study (Japan).

Design

5-year-follow up (MRI and low back pain presence).

Outcome measures

  • yearly medical check-up
  • presence of low back pain (LBP)
  • MRI of low back pain (lumbar vertebrae)

low back pain (LBP)athlete was unable to practice weightlifting for more than a week due to pain

Main results

Low back pain in youth weightlifters - Infographic

  • Athletes trained on average 2 hours per day, 5 days a week. Athletes mostly trained at 50% of 1RM, training with 100% of 1RM was limited to once per week at most.

  • 11 out of 12 athletes did other sports (swimming, sumo, trampoline, judo, basketball) before starting weightlifting, and 2 athletes started a new sport (sumo, track and field) while training weightlifting.

  • At the start of the study, no athlete had back pain, spondylolysis, or disc herniation. Two athletes had grade II disc degeneration.

  • By year 5, 12 athletes had disc degeneration, 4 had disc herniation (1 athlete underwent surgery/herniotomy), 0 spondylolysis, and 3 had low back pain.

  • All athletes developed degenerative changes in the low back over the 5 years of the study, but not all of them had pain.

disc degenerationanatomical changes and loss of function in the disc

disc herniationa disc bulge that goes into the spinal canal

spondylolysisa fracture through a part of the lumbar (low back) vertebrae

Year
1
2
3
4
5
Back pain
Year
1
0
2
1
3
3
4
2
5
3
Disc degeneration
Year
1
2
2
8
3
9
4
12
5
12
Disc herniation
Year
1
0
2
0
3
2
4
3
5
4
Spondylolysis
Year
1
0
2
1
3
4
4
1
5
0

Take home message

For a clinician & coach
All athletes developed degenerative changes in the low back over the 5 years of the study, but not all of them had pain.
For a parent
All athletes developed degenerative changes in the low back over the 5 years of the study, but not all of them had pain.
For an athlete
All athletes developed degenerative changes in the low back over the 5 years of the study, but not all of them had pain.

Original article

Yoshimizu R, Nakase J, Yoshioka K, Shimozaki K, Asai K, Kimura M, Kitaoka K, Tsuchiya H. Incidence and temporal changes in lumbar degeneration and low back pain in child and adolescent weightlifters: A prospective 5-year cohort study. PloS one. 2022 Jun 29;17(6):e0270046.

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