Purpose: We examined the associations between participation in different sports and exercise activities and neck, shoulder, and low back pains in adolescents.
Methods: This population-based study included the members of the Northern Finland Birth Cohort 1986, who, at the age of 15 to 16 yr, completed a questionnaire including items about their musculoskeletal pains and participation in various sport and exercise activities (N = 6945). Logistic regression analysis was used to evaluate how musculoskeletal pains are associated a) with participation in a certain type of sport or exercise activity and b) with the clusters formed by latent class analysis (LCA) according to the adolescents' profiles of participation in different sport and exercise activities.
Results: Participation in certain sports showed some direct and inverse associations with musculoskeletal pains when adjusted for participation in other sports and for the amount of physical activity. However, after grouping the individuals into clusters by their participation in different sports, these associations vanished. Only the cluster characterized by boys' active participation in several sports (i.e., ice hockey, cycling, ice-skating, soccer, floorball, rinkball/bandy, swimming, roller-skating/skateboarding, Finnish baseball) had lower prevalence of neck pain compared with the physically inactive group.
Conclusions: Physically active adolescents usually engage in several different sport and exercise activities, which make associations between single sports and musculoskeletal pains inconsequential in the general population of adolescents. Participation in several sports seemed to protect from harmful effects of a single risk sport. However, this finding cannot be generalized to adolescent elite athletes who are often involved in intense training for a single sport.