Preventing Low Back Pain in Young Athletes

preventing low back pain in young athletes
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The following post was written by Katie Surls, DC, in honor of our new partnership with PASS San Antonio, The Players Academy of Soccer Skills. If you’re the parent of a young soccer player (or any young athlete), read on to learn more about how to prevent the most common sports-related injury: low back pain.

And if pain or an injury is keeping your athlete from performing his or her best or, worse yet, sidelined completely, Airrosti is here to help.

Low back pain is reported in as much as 30% of adolescent athletes, and one study suggests competitive athletes are four times more likely to complain of low back pain than non-athletes. Among soccer players, the most common cause of low back pain is overuse.

An overuse injury occurs because of repetitive strain on the muscles and joints, causing them to work overtime and resulting in pain. Other factors that may contribute to the risk for injury are periods of growth spurts, as well as an increase in practice hours and games or an increased level of play intensity.

Let’s look at the muscle imbalances associated with low back pain in young soccer players and how we can proactively prevent pain through targeted rehab exercises.

How to Prevent Muscle Strain Injuries

Muscular strain and sacroiliac (SI) joint dysfunction are often the “what” that is causing pain. The question then is “why” and how do you fix it?

For proper biomechanics and movement, certain joints and areas of the body need either mobility or stability. Mobility is the flexibility of a joint. Stability occurs through muscle contraction to control the joint.

You will notice in the picture below, mobility and stability work in tandem. When one area of the body requires mobility, another core area requires stability. For example, the low back must be a stable area, while the hip must be a mobile joint. 

Preventing back pain in young athletes

Movement requires force, and the body will find positions of stability to keep moving. When athletes start to develop muscle imbalances, stability decreases, and pain increases. 

The key to low back stability is hip and core strength/stability.

Kicking power comes through the glutes. If the glutes, over time, begin to fatigue, the hips tighten, and hip mobility decreases. If the hips aren’t strong, the body will tap into other areas, like the low back and hamstrings, to pick up the slack. As a result, the low back gets overloaded, and those muscles strain.

Fortunately, by performing a few simple exercises designed to strengthen the glutes and core, you can help prevent low back pain and significantly decrease the risk for injury. 

3 Exercises to Prevent Low Back Pain

*Disclaimer: Always consult with your doctor before starting any exercise program.  If you experience any numbness, tingling or reproduction of your symptoms, please contact your doctor.

 ELBOW PLANK­

  • Start by lying down on your stomach.
  • Bend your arms at a 90-degree angle with your elbows directly under your shoulders.
  • Push your body up using your forearms so that you’re resting on your elbows.
  • Optionally, you can keep your knees on the ground for support, then progress to your feet.
  • Keep your body flat and straight.
  • Keep your core tight throughout the exercise.
  • Hold this position for 30 seconds, rest, and repeat 3 times.

HIP FLEXOR STRETCH

  • Begin by kneeling on the floor.
  • Bring your right leg in front of you so that your right thigh is parallel to the floor, with your knee bent at a 90-degree angle and your foot flat on the floor.
  • Leave your left knee on the floor, making sure that your shin is pointing straight back
  • Put your hands on your hips and bring your thumbs downward towards your glutes.
  • With your back straight, shift your weight forward until you feel a stretch through the front of the left thigh and groin.
  • Hold this position for 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.

BASIC BRIDGE

  • Lie face-up on the floor with your knees and feet flat on the ground.
  • Keep your arms at your side with your palms down.
  • Lift your hips off the ground until your knees, hips, and shoulders form a straight line.
  • Squeeze your glutes hard and keep your abs drawn in so you don’t overextend your back.
  • Hold your bridged position for a couple of seconds before easing back down.
  • Complete 2 sets of 10 repetitions.

Don’t Let Back Pain Sideline Your Athlete

Low back tightness or discomfort can be the first indicator of an imbalance in the tissues and needs to be addressed quickly to decrease the risk of a low back injury. 

Airrosti providers are equipped to detect these imbalances and determine a plan of action to help athletes return to their sport and decrease their injury rate. 

We also offer remote telehealth appointments. Call us at (800) 404-6050 to learn more about telehealth and schedule your virtual appointment today.

Read our Medical Disclaimer here.

Sources: Shah T, Cloke DJ, Rushton S, Shirley MD, Deehan DJ. Lower Back Symptoms in Adolescent Soccer Players: Predictors of Functional Recovery. Orthop J Sports Med. 2014;2(4):2325967114529703. Published 2014 Apr 17. doi:10.1177/2325967114529703

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