Disc degeneration and associated abnormalities of the spine in elite gymnasts. A magnetic resonance imaging study

Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 1991 Apr;16(4):437-43. doi: 10.1097/00007632-199104000-00009.


The thoracolumbar spine was examined by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and the history of back pain was analyzed in 24 male elite gymnasts (age range, 19-29 years) and in 16 male nonathletes (age range, 23-36 years). Disc degeneration, defined as reduced disc signal intensity, was significantly more common in athletes (75%) than in nonathletes (31%). The gymnasts also had a higher incidence of other abnormalities of the thoracolumbar spine, and there was a significant correlation between reduced disc signal intensity and the other abnormalities among the gymnasts. There were also significant correlations between back pain and reduced disc signal intensity and abnormal vertebral configuration when the gymnasts run a high risk of developing severe abnormalities of the thoracolumbar spine, and they often have a history of back pain.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Back Pain / epidemiology
  • Back Pain / etiology
  • Gymnastics / injuries*
  • Humans
  • Intervertebral Disc / pathology*
  • Intervertebral Disc Displacement / diagnosis*
  • Intervertebral Disc Displacement / epidemiology
  • Intervertebral Disc Displacement / etiology
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / diagnostic imaging*
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / injuries
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Radiography
  • Risk Factors
  • Thoracic Vertebrae / injuries
  • Thoracic Vertebrae / pathology*