Context:: Low back pain is common in golfers. The risk factors for golf-related low back pain are unclear but may include individual demographic, anthropometric, and practice factors as well as movement characteristics of the golf swing.
Objective:: The aims of this systematic review were to summarize and synthesize evidence for factors associated with low back pain in recreational and professional golfers.
Data sources:: A systematic literature search was conducted using the PubMed, CINAHL, and SPORTDiscus electronic databases through September 2017.
Study selection:: Studies were included if they quantified demographic, anthropometric, biomechanical, or practice variables in individuals with and without golf-related low back pain.
Study design:: Systematic review and meta-analysis.
Level of evidence:: Level 3.
Data extraction:: Studies were independently reviewed for inclusion by 2 authors, and the following data were extracted: characterization of low back pain, participant demographics, anthropometrics, biomechanics, strength/flexibility, and practice characteristics. The methodological quality of studies was appraised by 3 authors using a previously published checklist. Where possible, individual and pooled effect sizes of select variables of interest were calculated for differences between golfers with and without pain.
Results:: The search retrieved 73 articles, 19 of which met the inclusion criteria (12 case-control studies, 5 cross-sectional studies, and 2 prospective longitudinal studies). Methodological quality scores ranged from 12.5% to 100.0%. Pooled analyses demonstrated a significant association between increased age and body mass and golf-related low back pain in cross-sectional/case-control studies. Prospective data indicated that previous history of back pain predicts future episodes of pain.
Conclusion:: Individual demographic and anthropometric characteristics may be associated with low back pain, but this does not support a relationship between swing characteristics and the development of golf-related pain. Additional high-quality prospective studies are needed to clarify risk factors for back pain in golfers.
Keywords: biomechanics; golf; low back pain; risk factors; swing.