Objective - To evaluate the prevalence, determinants and risk factors for Low back pain (LBP) in club-level competitive adolescent gymnasts compared to the general adolescent population. Design - A cohort study. Setting - School of Physiotherapy - University of Bologna (Italy). Participants - ninety-one gymnasts aged 11-14 years were selected for this study and three-hundred and seventy-five age-matched general adolescents were used as a control. Assessment of risk factors - A questionnaire concerning back pain, physical activity, social-behavioral factors, and the measurement of anthropometric parameters and lumbar range of motion were used. Main outcome measurement - The prevalence of LBP. Results - Low-level LBP was reported by 46% of the gymnasts and 60% of the students in the control group; medium/high level LBP was reported by 26% of the gymnasts and 36% of the control group. In both groups, the risk of LBP was higher in females, in adolescents with parents or siblings suffering from LBP and in children who spent more time in a sedentary position. For the gymnasts, an increased or reduced lumbar three-direction ROM and certain psychosocial factors seemed to be risk factors for LBP. No significant relationship emerged between LBP and height, weight, BMI, number of training hours, type of training, or years of sport practice. Conclusions - The results are in line with other studies on similar populations (adolescent and medium agonistic level), but they differ from the findings of research carried out on elite or Olympic athletes. LBP prevalence is lower in competitive, club-level adolescent gymnasts than in adolescent non-gymnasts.
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