European Spine Journal

, Volume 20, Issue 1, pp 94–99 | Cite as

Low back pain in childhood and adolescence: assessment of sports activities

  • Tsuyoshi Sato
  • Takui Ito
  • Toru Hirano
  • Osamu Morita
  • Ren Kikuchi
  • Naoto Endo
  • Naohito Tanabe
Original Article


A cross-sectional study that targeted a total of 43,630 pupils in Niigata City, Japan was performed. The objective of the study was to evaluate the association between sports activities and low back pain (LBP) in childhood and adolescence in Japan. Regarding risk factors of LBP, a large number of studies have been conducted that have examined gender differences, height and weight, body mass index, sports time, differences in lifestyle, family history, and mental factors; however, no definitive conclusion has yet been made. A questionnaire survey was conducted using 43,630 pupils, including all elementary school pupils from the fourth to sixth grade (21,893 pupils) and all junior high pupils from the first to third year (21,737 pupils) in Niigata City (population of 785,067). 26,766 pupils who were determined to have valid responses (valid response rate 61.3%) were analyzed. Among the 26,766 pupils with valid responses, 2,591 (9.7%) had LBP at the time of the survey, and 8,588 (32.1%) had a history of LBP. The pupils were divided between those who did not participate in sports activities except the physical education in school (No sports group: 5,486, 20.5%) and those who participated in sports activities (Sports group: 21,280, 79.5%), and the difference in lifetime prevalence between No sports group and Sports group was examined. The odds ratio for LBP according to sports activity was calculated by multiple logistic regression analysis adjusted for gender, age, and body mass index. In addition, the severity of LBP was divided into three levels (Level 1: no limitation in any activity, Level 2: necessary to refrain from participating in sports and physical activities, and Level 3: necessary to be absent from school), and Levels 2 and 3 were defined as severe LBP; the severity was compared between No sports group and Sports group and in each sport’s items. Moreover, in Sports group, the amount of time spent participating in sports activities were divided into three groups (Group 1: less than 6 h per week, Group 2: 6–12 h per week, and Group 3: 12.1 h per week or more), and the dose–response between the amount of time spent participating in sports activities and the occurrence of LBP were compared. In No sports group, 21.3% experienced a history of LBP; in Sports group, 34.9% experienced LBP (P < 0.001). In comparison to No sports group, the odds ratio was significantly higher for Sports group (1.57), and also significantly higher for most of the sports items. The severity of LBP was significantly higher in Sports group (20.1 vs. 3.2%, P < 0.001). The amount of time spent participating in sports activities averaged 9.8 h per week, and a history of LBP significantly increased in the group which spent a longer time participating in sports activities (odds ratio 1.43 in Group 3). These findings suggest that sports activity is possible risk factors for the occurrence of LBP, and it might increase the risk for LBP in childhood and adolescence.


Low back pain Childhood Adolescence Sports activity Epidemiology 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tsuyoshi Sato
    • 2
  • Takui Ito
    • 1
  • Toru Hirano
    • 1
  • Osamu Morita
    • 2
  • Ren Kikuchi
    • 4
  • Naoto Endo
    • 1
  • Naohito Tanabe
    • 3
  1. 1.Division of Orthopedic Surgery, Department of Regenerative and Transplant MedicineNiigata University Graduate School of Medical and Dental SciencesNiigataJapan
  2. 2.Department of Orthopedic SurgeryNiigata Prefectural Shibata HospitalShibataJapan
  3. 3.Division of Health Promotion, Department of Public HealthNiigata University Graduate School of Medical and Dental SciencesNiigataJapan
  4. 4.Department of Orthopedic SurgeryNiigata Rosai HospitalJoetsuJapan

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