The prevalence, incidence and severity of low back pain among international-level rowers

Br J Sports Med. 2015 Jul;49(14):951-6. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2014-093889. Epub 2015 Feb 2.


Background/aims: There is a paucity of prospective cohort studies investigating the incidence of low back pain (LBP) in rowing. We investigated (1) the prevalence and incidence of LBP among international-level rowers in New Zealand, (2) the relationship between training volume and LBP and (3) the effect of LBP on rowers' ability to train and compete.

Methods: This was a prospective cohort study of 76 New Zealand representative rowers, including 46 men (mean age 22, SD=4) and 30 women (mean age 21, SD=4). Data were collected using an online questionnaire repeated monthly for 12 months.

Results: The prevalence of LBP ranged from 6% to 25% throughout the year. The incidence of episodes of LBP was 1.67 per 1000 exposure-hours. A total of 72 episodes of LBP were reported by 40 rowers (53%) during 12 months. Of these, 45% had an incidental effect on training. 29% minor, 18% moderate and 9% had a major effect as determined by the length of time the training was interrupted. There was a high correlation between new LBP and total training hours per month (r=0.83, p<0.01). A previous history of LBP was a risk factor in developing new LBP (OR 2.06, 95% CI 1.22 to 3.48, p=0.01). Age was also a risk factor, with the likelihood of developing LBP increasing for every year (OR 1.08, 95% CI 1.01 to 1.15, p=0.02).

Conclusions: LBP is common among New Zealand representative rowers. There is a high correlation between training load and the development of LBP.

Keywords: Back injuries; Epidemiology; Injury; Rowing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Athletic Injuries / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Low Back Pain / epidemiology*
  • Male
  • Naval Medicine*
  • New Zealand / epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Sports / physiology*
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult