Objectives Low back pain (LBP) is common in rowers and leads to considerable disability and even retirement. The athlete voice can help clinicians to better understand sport-related pain disorders. We aimed to capture the lived experience of LBP in rowers.
Methods Cross-sectional qualitative study using a grounded theory approach. Adult competitive rowers with a rowing-related LBP history were recruited in Australia and Ireland. Data were collected through interviews that explored: context around the time of onset of their LBP and their subsequent journey, experiences of management/treatment, perspectives around present beliefs, fears, barriers and expectations for the future.
Results The 25 rowers (12 women/13 men) who participated were aged 18–50 years; they had a mean 12.1 years of rowing experience. They discussed a culture of concealment of pain from coaches and teammates, and fear of being judged as ‘weak’ because of the limitations caused by LBP. They reported fear and isolation as a result of their pain. They felt that the culture within rowing supported this. They reported inconsistent messages regarding management from medical staff. Some rowers reported being in a system where openness was encouraged—they regarded this a leading to better outcomes and influencing their LBP experience.
Conclusions Rowers’ lived experience of LBP was influenced by a pervasive culture of secrecy around symptoms. Rowers and support staff should be educated regarding the benefits of early disclosure and rowers should be supported to do so without judgement.
- lumbar spine
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Contributors Study concept, design and management: FW, JPC, PPBO, KO and VT. Data Collection: LN, JPC and FW. Data analysis: FW, AH and VT. Data review and interpretation: all authors. Manuscript writing: all authors
Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.
Competing interests None declared.
Patient consent for publication Not required.
Ethics approval Ethical approvals were granted by the Faculty of Health Sciences Research Ethics Committee (Trinity College Dublin) and the Human Research Ethics Committee (Curtin University approval RDHS-59–16).
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
Data availability statement Data are available on reasonable request. Data are available, stored as encrypted audio files with FW and LN. Transcripts are stored on an encrypted database with FW. Pseudanonymised data are available on reasonable request.
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