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Medicina dello Sport 2003 September;56(3):193-9


language: Italian

Treatment of low back pain in Olympic-class sailors: the role of manual therapy

Fusco A. 1, Ferraris L. 2, Favro M. 2

1 Formazione Avanzata in Terapia Manuale, Facoltà di Medicina e Chirurgia, Università degli Studi di Genova, Genova; 2 Commissione Medica, Federazione Italiana Vela (FIV)


Aim. Competitive sport sailing submits athletes to intense repeated stress on the entire spinal column, particularly on the lumbar segment, thus causing a high incidence of low back pain (LBP) syndromes (over 30%). During a 2-year training course in preparation for the Olympic games, the medical staff conducted a prevention-therapy program to reduce the number, or at least the intensity, of episodes of LBP in the members of the national Olympic-class team.
Methods. The program drew on criteria taken from the literature, namely, that LBP is caused or is exacerbated by prolonged execution of technical maneuvers, insufficient training and training in general, and a variety of other factors (pre-existing disease, limited flexibility, cold climate, long transfer times, jet lag, equipment handling and transport). The study also aimed to determine whether a correlation existed between a certain type of stress to the spine and the particular task the sailor performed, classified by category or activity (e.g. bowsman, helmsman, windsurfer).
Results. The incidence of LBP was found to be lower than that reported in the literature, with a subsequent minor effect of pain syndromes on the performance of sports activity in this sample, wherein 34 subjects (87%) did not interrupt their activity.
Conclusion. Because of the small sample size, which was subdivided by class and task, no reliable correlations could be determined between LBP syndromes and a specific category of activity or sailing class. However, account should be taken of the development of disorders, whether classified as acute or chronic LBP syndromes, in order to detect early signs of chronic progression.

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