Amazing salaries and the spotlight of being an athlete is something that most of us desire. But truth be told, there is a hidden toll that athletes take that can linger for decades to come. You can not get to an elite level of athletics without hours of strenuous activity and repetition. Even a pitcher, who only pitches every 5 days, will throw hundreds of practice pitches per week. The wear and tear of this type of motion leaves retired pitchers in severe pain and addicted to pain killers. Many retired NFL lineman struggle to even walk up stairs just after their short career in the league. What separates professional athletes from amateur athletes is typically skill not more exercise, which means everyday athletes are just as prone to back and body injuries.
Impact Sports and Back Pain
Obviously, sports that involve impact are more likely to lead to spinal injuries than non impact sports. Although the spine is resilient, it can not withstand excessive impact. Football, rugby, and hockey players often end up with ruptured or fractured discs. Stress fractures can occur without causing severe pain and when ignored they can lead to much more serious injury. If you are a parent, keep in mind that thousands of people play impact sports without serious injury. Just make sure you understand the risks associated with these sports.
Non Impact Sports and Back Pain
Some of the greatest athletes of all time have dealt with back pain. Thirty somethings will remember Larry Bird lying on the hardwood floor in Boston during the game, towards the end of his career. Bird dealt with ongoing chronic back pain, as has Andre Agassi, and many other world class athletes. So if basketball and tennis are non impact sports, how do these athletes end up dealing with back pain? Believe it or not, jumping to serve a tennis ball or shooting a lay up, can be categorized as impact. Though subtle, this repeated motion ends up wearing down the body over time. Also, athletes often over train certain muscles and under train others. To illustrate this, think about the daily activities of a cyclist. They spend hours, bent over on a bike, developing huge leg muscles. This position can lead to strain on the lower back and neck.
Advice for Athletes to Avoid Back Pain
If you are a serious athlete and you are worried about back pain, please consider the following. Try to avoid over training. Give your body adequate rest and recovery. When you are feeling pain, your body is sending you a message. There is a difference between soreness and pain related to injury. Do not ignore pain and push through it. If the pain continues you need to find out the underlying causes of your pain.