BACKGROUND: Back pain is a common problem among rowers. PURPOSE: To determine whether preexisting back pain is a significant risk factor for back pain in intercollegiate rowers and how it relates to the ability of athletes to participate in college rowing. STUDY DESIGN: Survey. METHODS: Surveys from 1829 former intercollegiate rowing athletes were analyzed. The surveys included questions concerning back pain before the subjects' college career, back pain during intercollegiate rowing, missed practices, the duration of time lost from college rowing because of back pain, and career-ending back pain. Back pain was defined as pain lasting longer than 1 week. RESULTS: More subjects with preexisting back pain developed back pain during their college rowing career than subjects without preexisting back pain (57.1% versus 36.6%). Of those with preexisting pain, 55% missed practice because of back pain and 8% ended their college rowing careers; for those without preexisting pain, the percentages were 62% and 17%, respectively. For subjects with pain before their college rowing career, 78.8% missed less than 1 week and 5.9% missed more than 1 month. For subjects with no preexisting pain, 61.9% missed less than 1 week and 18.1% missed more than 1 month. CONCLUSIONS: While rowers with preexisting back pain are more likely to have back pain in college, they are less likely to miss extended periods of practice time or end their college rowing careers because of back pain.
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