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Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise:
Applied Sciences: Physical Fitness And Performance

Low back pain in elite rhythmic gymnasts


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HUTCHINSON, M. R. Low back pain in elite rhythmic gymnasts. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc., Vol. 31, No. 11, pp. 1686–1688, 1999.

Background: Rhythmic gymnastics is a sport that blends the athleticism of a gymnast with the grace of a ballerina. The sport demands both the coordination of handling various apparatus and the flexibility to attain positions not seen in any other sport. To attain perfection and reproducibility of their routines, the athletes must practice and repeat the basic elements of their routines thousands of times. In so doing, the athlete places herself at risk of a myriad of overuse injuries, the most common being low back pain.

Methods: To document the presence and severity of low back pain in elite rhythmic gymnasts, a prospective study of seven national team members was undertaken that documented injuries and complaints with daily medical reports over a 7-wk period. These findings were correlated with a retrospective review of 11 elite level gymnasts followed over a 10-month period whose complaints ultimately required evaluation by a physician.

Results: Eighty-six percent of the gymnasts in the prospective study complained of back pain at some point over the course of the study. The only injury recorded that required a time loss from sport was a low back injury. The most common complaint requiring a physician’s evaluation was low back pain with the diagnoses varying from muscle strains to bony stress reaction or complete fracture of the pars inter-articularis (spondylolysis). No athlete had a spondylolisthesis or ruptured disk. Two had mild scolioses which did not appear to be associated with their low back pain.

Conclusions: It would appear that rhythmic gymnasts are at relative increased risk of suffering low back complaints secondary to their sport.

© 1999 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.


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