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Clin Biomech (Bristol, Avon). 2000 Feb;15(2):83-6.

The long-term effects of rally driving on spinal pathology.

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Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada.



To investigate the consequences of rally driving on lumbar degenerative changes.


Vehicular driving is suspected to accelerate disc degeneration through whole-body vibration, leading to back problems. However, in an earlier well-controlled study of lumbar MRI findings in monozygotic twins, significant effects of lifetime driving on disc degeneration were not demonstrated. Another study of machine operators found only long-term exposure to vibration on unsprung seats led to a reduction in disc height.


Case-control study comparing rally drivers with population sample.


Eighteen top rally drivers and co-drivers, mean age 43 yrs (SD, 10), volunteered for the study. The subjects were interviewed and imaged with a MR scanning and lumbar images were analyzed for degenerative findings using a standard scoring protocol previously published. The reference group was composed of 14 men, mean age 55 yrs (SD, 10), selected from a population sample.


Overall results showed no significant differences in lumbar degenerative findings as assessed from MR images between the rally drivers and the reference group; age-adjusted differences were not statistically significant for disc heights, bulges, herniations, end-plate irregularities, or osteophytes.


Even extreme vehicular vibration as experienced in rally driving does not appear to have significant effects on disc generation.


The study results do not support driving, and its associated whole body vibration, as a significant cause of disc degeneration and question the theory that the higher incidence of back pain among drivers is due to accelerated disc degeneration. Other driving-related factors, such as postural stress, may deserve more attention.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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