Back Pain in Adolescent Athletes

Back Pain in Adolescent Athletes

Dr. GJohn Mullen Blog, Injuries Leave a Comment

Background on Back Pain

The low back is the most common site of pain in the population. In swimming, the low back is one of the top five sites of injury. This site of injury used to be exclusive to adults, but over recent years the amount of cases has increased in the pediatric and adolescent population.

It is likely this increase is due to an increase in sports specialization. Adolescents are specializing in sports at a younger age, leading to increases in repetitive and overuse injuries.

What was done

The researchers provided a detailed background on back pain in kids.


It seems an increase in low-back pain increases with an increase in sports participation. In kids, the spine is still growing as bones have not ossified (hardened). This increases their risk for repetitive injuries.

Moreover, weak abdominal muscles and tight hip flexors may contribute to an increase in lordosis, which increases the amount of compressive load on the posterior elements of the spine. Athletes who participate in sports with repetitive extension (dolphin kick, butterfly) are thought to have a higher risk of low back pain.

The most common injuries to the low back include acute disc herniation, apophyseal ring fracture, strains, sprains, contusions, spondylolysis (defect of the pars interarticularis), spondylolisthesis (forward translation of one vertebra relative to the below segment), and lordotic low back pain.


A rise in low back pain in the pediatric and adolescent population is suggested to be correlated with an increase in sports specialization at a younger age. Most of these injuries improve with proper conservative treatment but can be serious if not treated.

Practical Implication

Swimming is a repetitive exercise requiring high training volumes. To combat this overuse, it is essential for swimmers to utilize a proper prevention dry-land program. Moreover, this program should focus on exercise outside the movement patterns associated with swimming to prevent continued overuse outside the pool



  1. Haus BM, Micheli LJ. Back pain in the pediatric and adolescent athlete.
    Clin Sports Med. 2012 Jul;31(3):423-40. Epub 2012 May 3. No abstract available.

Originally Posted July 2012

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