Objective: The athletic activity of the adult U.S. population has increased markedly in the last 20 years. To evaluate the possible long-term effects of such activity on the cervical and lumbar spine, we studied a group of asymptomatic currently very active lifelong male athletes over age 40 (41-69 years old, av. age 53).
Materials and methods: Nineteen active, lifelong male athletes were studied with MRI and the results compared with previous imaging studies of other populations. An athletic history and a spine history were also taken.
Results: Evidence of asymptomatic degenerative spine disease was similar to that seen in published series of other populations. Degenerative changes including disk protrusion and herniation, spondylosis, and spinal stenosis were present and increased in incidence with increasing patient age. In this group, all MRI findings proved to be asymptomatic and did not limit athletic activity.
Conclusion: The incidence of lumbar degenerative changes in our study population of older male athletes was similar to those seen in other populations.