Background: Our understanding of the effects of football code participation on low back pain (LBP) is limited. It is unclear whether LBP is more prevalent in athletic populations or differs between levels of competition. Thus it was the aim of this study to document and compare the prevalence, intensity, quality and frequency of LBP between elite and semi-elite male Australian football code participants and a non-athletic group.
Methods: A cross-sectional survey of elite and semi-elite male Australian football code participants and a non-athletic group was performed. Participants completed a self-reported questionnaire incorporating the Quadruple Visual Analogue Scale (QVAS) and McGill Pain Questionnaire (short form) (MPQ-SF), along with additional questions adapted from an Australian epidemiological study. Respondents were 271 elite players (mean age 23.3, range 17-39), 360 semi-elite players (mean age 23.8, range 16-46) and 148 non-athletic controls (mean age 23.9, range 18-39).
Results: Groups were matched for age (p = 0.42) and experienced the same age of first onset LBP (p = 0.40). A significant linear increase in LBP from the non-athletic group, to the semi-elite and elite groups for the QVAS and the MPQ-SF was evident (p < 0.001). Elite subjects were more likely to experience more frequent (daily or weekly OR 1.77, 95% CI 1.29-2.42) and severe LBP (discomforting and greater OR 1.75, 95% CI 1.29-2.38).
Conclusion: Foolers in Australia have significantly more severe and frequent LBP than a non-athletic group and this escalates with level of competition.