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A guide to back injuries
Back injuries

Back injuries are quite common in sport, with most athletes suffering from them at some stage in their career.

WHO?

Duncan Ferguson, Andrew Flintoff and Pat Rafter have all had back problems throughout their careers.

And Tim Henman is having to deal with back problems in the twilight of his career.

HOW?

Too much strain on the spine and back muscles.

Since the back is a major part of the body, different areas get injured playing sport.

You can also get back injuries from doing day to day activities like lifting heavy objects.

Athletes who play contact sports are more likely to suffer from back problems.

They are, however, also common in tennis, golf and cricket.

CAN BACK INJURIES END SPORTING CAREERS?

It depends on the injury.

If it is a spinal injury, then it can be very dangerous.

In the most severe cases, it can lead to paralysis - the loss of use of the legs.

Because the back is very complex, one injury can often affect another part of the spine.

Doctors and physiotherapists use X-rays to see whether the spine has been affected.

But they also use a series of questions and short tests to find out whether the problem is muscular.

Back injuries are often very painful and prevent athletes from training.

WHAT ARE THE MAIN PARTS OF THE BACK?

The main bone in the back is the spine.

The spine is made up of little bones called vertebrates sitting on top of each other.

There are 24 vertebrates in the back. They are:

  • Seven cervical (neck) vertebrae
  • 12 thoracic (chest) vertebrae
  • Five lumbar (lower back) vertebrae

    Ligaments and muscles are attached to each vertebrae to allow the back to move around without causing any damage.

    In between each vertebrae are disks of fibro cartilage - the back's version of shock absorbers.

    These disks contain a jelly-like fluid which help the back move around freely.

    TREATMENT

    Certain back injuries, like vertebrae fractures, may require surgery because they can cause damage to the rest of the spinal cord.

    But other injuries, like muscle tears, aren't as serious.

    Massages, physiotherapy and rest are the best ways to get back to full fitness.

    RETURN?

    Again, it depends on how serious the injury is.

    Muscle strains and tears can take anywhere between two to eight weeks to heal.

    But more serious injuries, for example a slipped back disk, can take a lot longer to recover from.

    Athletes must avoid doing any activities which can harm their recovery.

    So for a fast bowler, physiotherapists would advise them not to bowl until their injury has cleared up.

    TREATMENT

    Certain back injuries, like vertebrae fractures, may require surgery because they can cause damage to the rest of the spinal cord.

    But other injuries, like muscle tears, aren't as serious.

    Massages, physiotherapy and rest are the best ways to get back to full fitness.



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