The prevalence and severity of lower back pain in South African university rowers


Background: Low back pain (LBP) is a condition prevalent among rowers due to the repetitive and physically demanding nature of rowing. Information concerning LBP among university-level rowers is, however, outdated and not widely available.

Objective: To determine the prevalence, severity and disabilities of LBP among university-level rowers in South Africa.

Methods: An online questionnaire, including the Athlete Disability Index (ADI) Questionnaire, was distributed to nine South African university rowing clubs. One-hundred participants aged between 18 to 30 years completed the online questionnaires.

Results: Eighty-seven rowers admitted to sustaining LBP either at the time of the study or previously in their university rowing career. These rowers (n=87) completed the Athlete Disability Index (ADI) Questionnaire which provided a moderate LBP disability score (ADI score: 8.1±6.0; ADI %: 24.7%±18.1). Rowers who had been rowing for a longer duration reported a higher severity of LBP (p=0.001). There was no statistically significant difference for LBP prevalence (p=0.584), or severity (p=0.445) between the sexes. A small significant correlation between age and the ADI score (r=0.25, p= 0.021) was reported. The high prevalence and moderate severity highlight the significance of LBP among university rowers.

Conclusion: This study illustrates the prevalence of LBP with moderate severity among university rowers. Future research on LBP risk factors and aetiology is recommended to decrease the negative impact of this condition.

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