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Clinical management of acute low back pain in elite and subelite rowers: a Delphi study of experienced and expert clinicians


Objectives Rowing-related low back pain (LBP) is common but published management research is lacking. This study aims to establish assessment and management behaviours and beliefs of experienced and expert clinicians when elite and subelite rowers present with an acute episode of LBP; second, to investigate how management differs for developing and masters rowers. This original research is intended to be used to develop rowing-related LBP management guidelines.

Methods A three-round Delphi survey was used. Experienced clinicians participated in an internet-based survey (round 1), answering open-ended questions about assessment and management of rowing-related LBP. Statements were generated from the survey for expert clinicians to rate (round 2) and rerate (round 3). Consensus was gained when agreement reached a mean of 7 out of 10 and disagreement was 2 SD or less.

Results Thirty-one experienced clinicians participated in round 1. Thirteen of 20 invited expert clinicians responded to round 2 (response rate 65%) and 12 of the 13 participated in round 3 (response rate 92%).

One hundred and fifty-three of 215 statements (71%) relating to the management of LBP in elite and subelite rowers acquired consensus status. Four of six statements (67%) concerning developing rowers and two of four (50%) concerning masters rowers gained consensus.

Conclusion In the absence of established evidence, these consensus-derived statements are imperative to inform the development of guidelines for the assessment and management of rowing-related LBP. Findings broadly reflect adult LBP guidelines with specific differences. Future research is needed to strengthen specific recommendations and develop best practice guidelines in this athletic population.

  • rowing
  • lower back
  • treatment
  • athlete
  • sporting injuries
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