Skip to main content
Log in

Prevalence of joint-related pain in the extremities and spine in five groups of top athletes

  • Sports Medicine
  • Published:
Knee Surgery, Sports Traumatology, Arthroscopy Aims and scope

Abstract

Purpose

Joint-related pain conditions from the spine and extremities are common among top athletes. The frequency of back pain has, however, been studied in more detail, and the frequency of low-back pain in top athletes in different high-load sports has been reported to be as high as 85%. Sport-related pain from different joints in the extremities is, however, infrequently reported on in the literature.

Methods

Seventy-five male athletes, i.e. divers, weight-lifters, wrestlers, orienteers and ice-hockey players and 12 non-athletes (control group) were included in the study. A specific self-assessed pain-oriented questionnaire related to the cervical, thoracic and lumbar spine, as well as the various joints, i.e. shoulders, elbows, wrists, hips, knees and ankles, was filled out by the athletes and the non-athletes.

Results

The overall frequency of pain reported by the athletes during the last week/last year was as follows; cervical spine 35/55%; thoracic spine 22/33%; lumbar spine 50/68%; shoulder 10/21%; elbow 7/7%; wrist 7/8%; hip 15/23%; knee 22/44%; and ankle 11/25%. The corresponding values for non-athletes were cervical spine 9/36%; thoracic spine 17/33%; lumbar spine 36/50%; shoulder 0/9%; elbow 9/0%; wrist 0/0%; hip 9/16%; knee 10/9%; and ankle 0/0%. A higher percentage of athletes reported pain in almost all joint regions, but there were no statistically significant differences (n.s.), with the exception of the knees (P = 0.05).

Over the last year, athletes reporting the highest pain frequency in the lumbar spine were ice-hockey players and, in the cervical spine, wrestlers and ice-hockey players. The highest levels of knee pain were found among wrestlers and ice-hockey players, whereas the highest levels for wrist pain were found among divers, hip pain among weight-lifters, orienteers and divers and ankle pain among orienteers. For the thoracic spine, shoulder and elbow regions, only minor differences were found.

Conclusion

There was no statistically significant difference in prevalence of pain in the neck, spine and joints between top athletes in different sports or between athletes and non-athletes. However, pain in one spinal region was correlated to reported pain in other regions of the spine. Moreover, pain in the spine was also correlated to pain in the shoulders, hips and knees.

Level of evidence

Prognostic case–control study, Level III.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Subscribe and save

Springer+ Basic
EUR 32.99 /Month
  • Get 10 units per month
  • Download Article/Chapter or Ebook
  • 1 Unit = 1 Article or 1 Chapter
  • Cancel anytime
Subscribe now

Buy Now

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2

Similar content being viewed by others

References

  1. Adkins SB, Figler RA (2000) Hip pain in athletes. Am Fam Physician 61:2109–2118

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  2. Bahr R, Andersen SO, Loken S et al (2004) Low back pain among endurance athletes with and without specific back loading—a cross-sectional survey of cross-country skiers, rowers, orienteerers, and nonathletic controls. Spine 29:449–454

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  3. Baranto A, Hellstrom M, Cederlund CG et al (2009) Back pain and MRI changes in the thoraco-lumbar spine of top athletes in four different sports: a 15-year follow-up study. Knee Surg Sports Traumatol Arthrosc 17:1125–1134

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  4. Baranto A, Hellström M, Nyman R et al (2006) Back pain and degenerative abnormalities in the spine of young elite divers: a 5-year follow-up magnetic resonance imaging study. Knee Surg Sports Traumatol Arthrosc 14:907–914

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  5. Bizzini M, Notzli HP, Maffiuletti NA (2007) Femoroacetabular impingement in professional ice hockey players: a case series of 5 athletes after open surgical decompression of the hip. Am J Sports Med 35:1955–1959

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  6. Boyd KT, Peirce NS, Batt ME (1997) Common hip injuries in sport. Sports Med 24:273–288

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  7. Burns SA, Mintken PE, and Austin GP (2010) Clinical decision making in a patient with secondary hip-spine syndrome. Physiother Theory Pract: PMCID 20795876

  8. Collins MS (2008) Imaging evaluation of chronic ankle and hindfoot pain in athletes. Magn Reson Imaging Clin N Am 16:39–58

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  9. de Loes M, Dahlstedt LJ, Thomee R (2000) A 7-year study on risks and costs of knee injuries in male and female youth participants in 12 sports. Scand J Med Sci Sports 10:90–97

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  10. Edeeson J, Nathan H (1994) Meralgia paresthetica in children. J Bone Joint Surg Am 76:993–999

    Google Scholar 

  11. Eriksson K, Nemeth G, Eriksson E (1996) Low back pain in elite cross-country skiers. A retrospective epidemiological study. Scand J Med Sci Sports 6:31–35

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  12. Fairbank JC, Couper J, Davies JB et al (1980) The Oswestry low back pain disability questionnaire. Physiotherapy 66:271–273

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  13. Felson DT (1998) Preventing knee and hip osteoarthritis. Bull Rheum Dis 47:1–4

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  14. Ferretti A, Cerullo G, Russo G (1987) Suprascapular neuropathy in volleyball players. J Bone Joint Surg Am 69:260–263

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  15. Field LD, Altchek DW (1995) Elbow injuries. Clin Sports Med 14:59–78

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  16. Field LD, Savoie FH (1998) Common elbow injuries in sport. Sports Med 26:193–205

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  17. Fogel GR, Esses SI (2003) Hip spine syndrome: management of coexisting radiculopathy and arthritis of the lower extremity. Spine J 3:238–241

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  18. Gehrmann RM, Rajan S, Patel DV et al (2005) Athletes’ ankle injuries: diagnosis and management. Am J Orthop (Belle Mead NJ) 34:551–561

    Google Scholar 

  19. Giza E, Micheli LJ (2005) Soccer injuries. Med Sport Sci 49:140–169

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  20. Group E (1990) EuroQol—a new facility for the measurement of health-related quality of life. Health Policy 16:199–208

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Harris-Hayes M, Sahrmann SA, Van Dillen LR (2009) Relationship between the hip and low back pain in athletes who participate in rotation-related sports. J Sport Rehabil 18:60–75

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  22. Harvey J, Tanner S (1991) Low back pain in young athletes. A practical approach. Sports Med 12:394–406

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  23. Holzgraefe M, Kukowski B, Eggert S (1994) Prevalence of latent and manifest suprascapular neuropathy in high-performance volleyball players. Br J Sports Med 28:177–179

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  24. Jackson DW (1979) Low back pain in young athletes: evaluation of stress reaction and discogenic problems. Am J Sports Med 7:364–366

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  25. Keogh MJ, Batt ME (2008) A review of femoroacetabular impingement in athletes. Sports Med 38:863–878

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  26. Kujala UM, Kvist M, Osterman K (1986) Knee injuries in athletes. Review of exertion injuries and retrospective study of outpatient sports clinic material. Sports Med 3:447–460

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  27. Kujala UM, Taimela S, Erkintalo M et al (1996) Low-back pain in adolescent athletes. Med Sci Sports Exerc 28:165–170

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  28. Lajtai G, Pfirrmann CW, Aitzetmuller G et al (2009) The shoulders of professional beach volleyball players: high prevalence of infraspinatus muscle atrophy. Am J Sports Med 37:1375–1383

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  29. Lane NE, Oehlert JW, Bloch DA et al (1998) The relationship of running to osteoarthritis of the knee and hip and bone mineral density of the lumbar spine: a 9 year longitudinal study. J Rheumatol 25:334–341

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  30. Lundin O, Hellström M, Nilsson I et al (2001) Back pain and radiological changes in the thoraco-lumbar spine of athletes. A long-term follow-up. Scand J Med Sci Sports 11:103–109

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  31. Majewski M, Susanne H, Klaus S (2006) Epidemiology of athletic knee injuries: a 10-year study. Knee 13:184–188

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  32. Micheli LJ, Metzl JD, Di Canzio J et al (1999) Anterior cruciate ligament reconstructive surgery in adolescent soccer and basketball players. Clin J Sport Med 9:138–141

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  33. Pommering TL, Kluchurosky L, Hall SL (2005) Ankle and foot injuries in pediatric and adult athletes. Prim Care 32:133–161

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  34. Sassmannshausen G, Smith BG (2002) Back pain in the young athlete. Clin Sports Med 21:121–132

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  35. Sink EL, Gralla J, Ryba A et al (2008) Clinical presentation of femoroacetabular impingement in adolescents. J Pediatr Orthop 28:806–811

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  36. Swärd L, Hellström M, Jacobsson B et al (1990) Acute injury of the vertebral ring apophysis and intervertebral disc in adolescent gymnasts. Spine 15:144–148

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  37. Swärd L, Hellström M, Jacobsson B et al (1991) Disc degeneration and associated abnormalities of the spine in elite gymnasts. A magnetic resonance imaging study. Spine 16:437–443

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  38. Swärd L, Hellström M, Jacobsson B et al (1990) Back pain and radiologic changes in the thoraco-lumbar spine of athletes. Spine 15:124–129

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  39. Wilkerson LA (1992) Ankle injuries in athletes. Prim Care 19:377–392

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  40. Villavicencio AT, Burneikiene S, Hernandez TD et al (2006) Back and neck pain in triathletes. Neurosurg Focus 21:E7

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  41. Villavicencio AT, Hernandez TD, Burneikiene S et al (2007) Neck pain in multisport athletes. J Neurosurg Spine 7:408–413

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  42. Vingard E, Alfredsson L, Malchau H (1998) Osteoarthrosis of the hip in women and its relationship to physical load from sports activities. Am J Sports Med 26:78–82

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

The authors acknowledge the financial support of The Medical Society of Gothenburg, Sweden, and The Research Council of the Swedish Sports Confederation, Swedish Society of Spinal Surgeons/4S, Anna and Edwin Berg’s Foundation and government grants under the ALF/LUA agreement.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Adad Baranto.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Jonasson, P., Halldin, K., Karlsson, J. et al. Prevalence of joint-related pain in the extremities and spine in five groups of top athletes. Knee Surg Sports Traumatol Arthrosc 19, 1540–1546 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00167-011-1539-4

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00167-011-1539-4

Keywords

Navigation