Main Article Content
Observational cross-sectional study. Level of evidence 3.
The objective was to investigate the amount of MRI abnormalities in the thoraco-lumbar
spine and the prevalence of back pain in male elite long distance runners compared to a
control group of non-athletes in the corresponding age.
Summary of Background
Studies have shown that athletes have a higher prevalence of back pain and a greater
number of spinal abnormalities on MRI, such as disc degeneration, compared to non-
athletes. The associations between running and both back pain and spinal MRI abnormalities
have not been clarified.
Study participants were 22 male elite long distance runners (runner group) and 25 male non-
athletes (control group) of 18-28 years of age.
Back pain was assessed by a three part self-reported questionnaire. Sagittal T1 and T2
weighted MRI examinations from Th5 to sacrum was conducted to evaluate MRI
abnormalities according to study protocol.
The runners reported a significant higher prevalence of back pain (45%), compared to the
control group (12%) (P=0.011). No statistical significant difference was found in amount of
MRI verified spinal abnormalities (P=0.614) or type of abnormalities between the groups. No
statistically significant correlation between back pain and MRI abnormalities was
Elite level male long distance runners have a significant higher prevalence of back pain but
demonstrate no significant difference in the amount or type of spinal abnormalities
compared to non-athletes. Further prospective studies are needed to validate the results.
Running, Low back Pain, young adult, Magnetic resonance imaging, intervertebral disc
displacement, athletes, sports, physical loading, cross sectional studies.
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