13.08.2020 - 12:17


Can chronic back pain and missed training be predicted in male and female athletes based on emotional factors?

The MiSpEx research group has taken up this complex query and developed a novel diagnosis tool which is intended to enable reliable prediction of back pain in male and female athletes.

Chronic unspecific back pain, also called CURS, has been a topic in social media as well as a scientific topic. It is considered the most frequent reason for work disability and causes immense costs every year in Germany. Chronic unspecific back pain even occurs in about 39% of athletes each year (annual prevalence).

Loss of training or competition due to back pain can have consequences especially for professional athletes. The causes of CURS are, however, broad. In addition to lifestyle (such as smoking, overweight, lack of exercise) or genetic disposition, recent studies have confirmed the involvement of psychosocial factors. These studies identified aspects like chronic stress, unfavorable coping with pain and depressive mood as risk factors which also play an important role in elite sports.

In order for elite or leisure athletes to be able to address possible complaints before they become chronic, doctors or therapists need scientifically-based screening instruments which can predict as accurately as possible the risk of unspecific chronic back pain in leisure and elite athletes [jE1] . Moreover, the uncertainties which exist concerning the chance of success of preventive and therapeutic measures could be studied at the same time. It has not yet been definitively determined why training programs can reliably reduce back pain in some people but not in others. Possibly these so-called “non-responders” -  that is people in whom the training does not produce the desired results - show a particular pattern in their risk profile.

The national research network MiSpEx (National Research Network for Medicine in Spine Exercise) has taken up the challenge of this complex query. The ambitious research project will be conducted over eight years in three multicenter and 34 studies, whereby the influencing risk factors will be examined in three multicenter and 11 part studies. Prof. Wippert from the University of Potsdam and her team describe the planned study implementation in a current position paper in the Journal of Sportspsychology (you can access the study here).

They are part of the MiSpEx Network which units various research facilities with clinical and non-clinical background, and facilities with reference to various medical care systems (such as universities, Olympic support groups, professional societies and rehabilitation clinics) and which is supported by the Bundesinstitut für Sportwissenschaft.

Free-access and scientifically-based training program against back pain.

The Germany-wide research league has, moreover, developed a training program which is available on-line free (click here). The program takes the various performance status of the participants into account and is thus suitable for both beginners and elite athletes. The efficacy of the program, developed by renowned researchers at various German universities, was tested in a broad multicenter study with more than 1500 patients. According to study results, it leads not only to reduction of back pain, but also to improved strength capacity of the back musculature, as well as to improvement in the limitations in quality of life caused by back pain.

Sports, Medicine and Health Summit 2021

Study results in the diagnostics and therapy of back complaints in leisure as well as elite athletes will be presented in April 2021 during the Sports, Medicine and Health Summit. Their application in practice for doctors, therapists, scientists as well as for leisure and elite athletes will be discussed.

This article was written by: Laura L. Bischoff