Magnetic resonance imaging assessment of regional abdominal muscle function in elite AFL players with and without low back pain

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Changes in the motor control of trunk muscles have been identified in people with low back pain (LBP) including elite football players. Previous research has found functional differences in the anatomical regions of abdominal muscles; however, this has not been examined in football players with LBP. The aim of this study was to investigate if the ability to draw-in the abdominal wall is altered among football players with LBP, and to determine if there are functional differences between the middle and lower abdominal regions in participants with and without LBP. Forty-three elite Australian Football League players were imaged using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) as they drew in their abdominal walls, and the trunk cross-sectional area (CSA) was measured in relaxed and contracted states. At the lower region, participants with LBP (1.1%) reduced their trunk CSA to a lesser extent than those without LBP (3.2%) (P = 0.018). The results also showed that the draw-in of the abdominal wall was smaller in Region 1 (8.8%) compared to Region 2 (16.0%) and Region 3 (19.7%) (P < 0.001). This study provides evidence of regional differences in motor control and altered control of the lower region in participants with LBP. This may direct physiotherapists, especially those treating athletes, to focus on the lower abdominal region in those with LBP.


School of Physiotherapy

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Journal Article

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ERA Access