Strength of the lower abdominals and low back pain. comparative study between students of greek dep of sports sciences

Por: A. Tripolitsioti, Apostolos Stergioulas, M. Stergioula e P. Parthymos.

Athens 2004: Pre-olympic Congress

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Introduction

It is supported the recent years, that the strength of lower abdominals (internal & external oblique, transversus abdominis), plays an important role in the stability of the lumbar spine [1]. To prevent back pain and reduce the subject’s number at risk, they had to be trained to perform exercises that strengthen the lower abdominals and decrease rectus abdominis activity [2]. Current exercise programs emphasized only on the strength of upper abdominals, e.g. rectus abdominis [3]. Measurements of abdominal strength in pediatric population revealed that although the upper abdominals are strong, it is not the same for the lower abdominals [4]. In another study by Parthymos et al [5], that was conducted to the students that attended the forth study year in the Department of Athens Sports Science, observed a correlation between the weakness of lower abdominals and low back problems. To investigate this statement, we compared the strength of the lower abdominals and the lifetime incidence of low back problems in subjects of two Greek physical education Schools, those of Athens and Trikala.

Methods

120 and 135 male students randomly selected from the departments of Sports Sciences of Athens and Thessaly Universities participated in the study. No significant differences were found between subjects in age (22.181±0.64 V 22.381±0.87), height (1. 81± 1.21 V 1.8381±1.35), body weight (76.1±2.13 V 76.3±2.22) and hours training per week (11.7±0.44 V 12.0±0.56). Kendall lower abdominal strength test [6] was used to measure the strength of the lower abdominals. Measurements conducted by a qualified physiotherapist. Correlation coefficients for reliability of the testing procedure was high (r=1.00, p<0.000). A standard questionnaire was used to record the lifetime low back problems of the subjects [7].

Results

The results showed that a large number of the students both in Athens and Trikala had a weakness in lower abdominals as confirmed by Kendall lower abdominal test. No differences were found after results analysis with X2 in lower abdominal strength grades between two groups of students. A 10% of students of Athens had very good abdominals V 12% of students of Trikala, 15% had good V 13% and 17% V 15% had moderate. The rest 56% V 62 % of the students had very weak abdominals. No differences were observed in the life time incidence of low back problems between two groups: A 18% of students of Athens suffering from lumbago V 16% of students of Trikala, 67% and 69% from low back pain and the rest 11 % and 15 % from sciatica.

Discussion-Conclusion

The results of our study confirm that the weakness of lower abdominals does not exist only in the subjects of the general population, but in those believed to have better physical fitness. Since studies support the view that spine stabilization depends on the strength of the lower abdominals [8], the specialists of the health professions must take into consideration the correcting (righting) strengthening of the abdominals muscles. The traditional exercises strengthen only the rectus abdominis that neutralizes the multifudis contraction. In order to stabilize the spine, proper programs for the abdominals are required.
We concluded that the subjects of two Greek physical education Schools (Athens and Trikala) had weak lower abdominals with no differences between them. The same was noticed in low back problems. In order to prevent low
back pain that is a common health problem from which suffers not only the general population, but the athletes as well, programs for the abdominal muscles strengthening must change, replicating the classical exercises with torsion of the track.

References

[1]. Norris C. ( 1995). Physiotherapy 81(3):129-137.
[2]. Shields RK, Heiss DG.(1997). Spine 22 (16): 187-1879.
[3]. Arnhein DD, Prentice WE.(1997). Mc Graw-Hill, USA.
[4]. Tripolitsioti A, Sakellariou K, Stergioulas A (2001). 6th Annual Congress of ECSS, Cologne 24-28 July 2001.
[5]. Parthymos P, Stergioulas A,Tsiganos G. (2002). Physiotherapy reviews 5(2): 39-43 (in Greek).
[6]. Salminen JJ, Erkintalo M, Laine M, Pentti J.(1995) Spine 20(19): 2102-1108.
[7]. Kentall FP, Kentall-MacGreary E and Provance P (1993). 4th Ed. Williams and Wilkins.
[8]. Richardson C, Jull G (1995). Austr J of hysiotherapy Monograph 1: 5-12,1995.

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