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Ergonomics. 2009 Apr;52(4):461-73. doi: 10.1080/00140130802707766.

Low-back problems in recreational self-contained underwater breathing apparatus divers: prevalence and specific risk factors.

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  • 1Department of Movement Education and Sports Training, Faculty of Physical Education and Physiotherapy, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium.


Low-back problems (LBP) are one of the most common musculoskeletal disorders in the general population, with reported lifetime prevalences of 50% to 80%. Also, certain sports participants (e.g. gymnasts, alpine skiers, runners) are at risk of LBP and its repercussions. This epidemiological study was undertaken to examine the lifetime and 1-year prevalence of LBP among recreational Flemish self-contained breathing apparatus (scuba) divers and to identify general and sport-specific risk factors associated with the occurrence of LBP. A retrospective self-assessment questionnaire was developed and assessed for validity and reliability, to gather data concerning demographics, LBP prevalence and associated risk factors and injuries among active scuba divers. A total of 181 recreational scuba divers (men: n = 138, mean age 40.3 +/- 12.8 years; women: n = 43, mean age 35.0 +/- 10.9 years) from 10 randomly selected internationally recognised scuba diving clubs participated in the study. Lifetime and 1-year prevalence of LBP among recreational Flemish scuba divers were 55.8% and 50.3%, respectively. General risk factors for LBP were found to include prior history of LBP, structural abnormalities, heavy workload, pregnancy and parturition, general fatigue and bending forwards and backwards. Scuba divers suffering from LBP generally had a significantly higher dive certificate than those without LBP (p = 0.007). Symptomatic scuba divers also used significantly more weights on their weight belts during indoor training (p = 0.003) and during outdoor dives with a dry suit (p = 0.044) as compared to asymptomatic scuba divers. In scuba diving, reliable sport-specific risk factors for LBP were found to be scarce. Further biomechanical research is required to point out whether or not scuba diving characteristics actually contribute to LBP.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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