Background: Low back pain in junior Australian Rules footballers has not been investigated despite findings that back pain is more prevalent, severe and frequent in senior footballers than non-athletic controls and findings that adolescent back pain is a strong predictor for adult back pain. The aim of this study was to determine the prevalence, intensity, quality and frequency of low back pain in junior Australian Rules footballers and a control group and to compare this data between groups. Methods: A cross-sectional survey of male non-elite junior (n = 60) and elite junior players (n = 102) was conducted along with a convenience sample of non-footballers (school children) (n = 100). Subjects completed a self-reported questionnaire on low back pain incorporating the Quadruple Visual Analogue Scale and McGill Pain Questionnaire (short form), along with additional questions adapted from an Australian epidemiological study. Linear Mixed Model (Residual Maximum Likelihood) methods were used to compare differences between groups. Log-linear models were used in the analysis of contingency tables. Results: For current, average and best low back pain levels, elite junior players had higher pain levels (p < 0.001), with no difference noted between non-elite juniors and controls for average and best low back pain. For low back pain at worst, there were significant differences in the mean pain scores. The difference between elite juniors and non-elite juniors (p = 0.040) and between elite juniors and controls (p < 0.001) was significant, but not between non-elite juniors and controls. The chance of suffering low back pain increases from 45% for controls, through 55% for non-elite juniors to 66.7% for elite juniors. The chance that a pain sufferer experiences chronic pain is 16% for controls and 41% for non-elite junior and elite junior players. Elite junior players experienced low back pain more frequently (p = 0.002), with no difference in frequency noted between non-elite juniors and controls. Over 25% of elite junior and non-elite junior players reported that back pain impacted their performance some of the time or greater. Conclusions: This study demonstrated that when compared with non-elite junior players and non-footballers of a similar age, elite junior players experience back pain more severely and frequently and have higher prevalence and chronicity rates.
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Erratum can be found in BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 2011