Back pain caused by athletics

As spring arrives, many people return to their favorite warm-weather sports. For many student and adult athletes, this means returning to athletics. It’s important to educate yourself about common injuries associated with your sport to protect yourself against back pain and other conditions that can put you out of competition.

A number of injuries can occur during any sport. Some common injuries associated with various athletic activities are described below.


Most people, whether they are athletes or office workers, tend to have weaker hamstrings than quadriceps. This imbalance causes the pelvis to pull downward and increase the lumbar arch. As the back arches more, the discs between the vertebrae compress unevenly, and the joints in the spine become tighter. Combined with the jolting force your body experiences when your feet hit the ground when you run, joint and disc problems are likely to result. Weak hamstrings are also susceptible to strains. Runners need to take extra care to ensure that their quadriceps and hamstrings are balanced in strength and flexibility.

Another muscle group runners need to be aware of is the hip flexor group, particularly the psoas. This muscle is used to bring the thigh and upper body closer together. The psoas connects the lumbar spine to the thigh bone and is used a lot when running. Tight, inflexible psoas muscles pull down on the pelvis and create the exaggerated lumbar arch that tight quadriceps create. Running without regaining flexibility in the psoas will likely worsen its stiffness and exacerbate pelvic misalignment, which in turn leads to lower back pain.

Regular stretching and myofascial release can help achieve muscles that are balanced in strength and flexibility. The assistance of a physical therapist is beneficial for people with sports injuries.


Muscle strains are common among hurdlers, especially in the groin and thigh. Groin strain is usually a sign of poor form or overuse. If you feel muzzle pain on the side of your back leg, you may be swinging your leg too far or too late. If the pain is on the side of your lead leg, you may be doing too many exercises with the hurdles together.

Hamstring strains are a common overuse injury acquired by hurdlers. The hamstring of the lead leg undergoes eccentric contraction during a hurdle jump, meaning it contracts as it is lengthened by the straightening of the leg. This type of contraction carries a high risk of muscle tear. The trailing leg works hard to push the body off the ground. Hamstring strain is a signal to stop, rest, and warm up sufficiently before practicing.

More worrisome than a simple muscle strain, hurdlers need to be wary of sacroiliac (SI) joint dysfunction. The sacroiliac joints form where the hip bones meet the sacrum at the base of the spine.

SI joint injuries typically occur when the muscles and ligaments that support them become weak, torn, or tightened. The tremendous forces that the pelvis endures when it is pushed off the floor can, over time, destabilize the pelvis and cause significant joint pain. Proper form, adequate rest time, good conditioning, and sufficient warm-up time can help prevent this condition.


Whether it’s the javelin, discus, or shot put, throwers are susceptible to similar injuries. Throwers in track and field use the muscles of the entire body to generate momentum; javelin throwers run, while shot puts and discus throws spin.

The most common throwing injury occurs in the shoulder. Rotator cuff injuries affect the set of muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder, giving it stability and allowing up and down movement and rotation of the arm. Repeated throws can cause muscle or tendon tears.

Hip and lower back strains can also occur in pitchers, particularly discus and shot putters who twist their bodies as part of their throw. Javelin throwers can also strain their back muscles when they lunge forward to throw the javelin.

The best defense against throwing injuries is to avoid overworking your arm and back. Know your limits and take adequate rest periods between practices.

Many sports injuries can be prevented with warming up, conditioning, myofascial release, and a willingness to give your body the time it needs to recover. Whatever your athletic pursuit, approach it in a way that allows you to enjoy your sport for many years to come.

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