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© Borgis - New Medicine 3/2013, s. 78-83
*Michał Wendt, Piotr Bartkowiak, Zuzanna Klupsch, Paweł Szulc
The effect of american football training on the angles of spinal curvatures and segmental mobility of the spine
Department of Functional Anatomy, University School of Physical Education in Poznań, Poland
Head of Department: Krystyna Cieślik, PhD, Assoc. Prof.
Aim. To verify the effect of long-term American football training on the physiological curvatures and mobility of the spine.
Material and methods. The study included 35 men (21-23 years of age) who practiced American football in teams from the Polish Top League, and 35 healthy controls of similar age who did not practice any sport discipline. The functional spinal parameters were determined with an aid of Penny & Giles tensometric electrogoniometer.
Results. The analyzed groups differed significantly in terms of the angles of cervical and lumbar lordosis which proved greater in football players, by 1.1° and 2.2°, respectively. A significant reduction of the lumbar spine mobility: anteroflexion (by 6%), extension (by 21.3%), left and right lateral flexion (by 9.3% and 8.7%), and rotation to the left and right (by 17.7% and 14.7%), was revealed in football players, along with an increased mobility of the thoracic segment: anteroflexion (by 5.3%), extension (by 8.3%), and rotation to the right (by 5.6%). No significant differences in the mobility of cervical spine were documented.
Discussion. According to literature, football players are characterized by increased lumbar lordosis and mobility of lumbar spine. Our partially contradictory findings may result from the fact that previous studies involved players from more experienced American league. Significantly reduced mobility of lumbar spine reflects greater compression forces generated in this segment.
Conclusions. Tailored bioregeneration should constitute a vital component of the training programs as it could counterbalance the alterations of functional parameters resulting from the specifics of American football.

Functional parameters of the spine change throughout the entire life. This can be associated with an array of factors, such as age, gender, body weight, or physical activity. Spondylometric parameters, especially reduced segmental mobility, and increased or decreased spinal curvatures, constitute a sensitive indicator of pathological changes (1-3).
A number of published studies dealt with the relationships between practicing various sport disciplines and functional parameters of the spine (2, 4-7). To the best of our knowledge, the number of published studies on changes in the segmental mobility of the spine and the angles of spinal curvatures in American football players is sparse (8).
The aim of this study was to verify the effect of long-term American football training on the physiological curvatures and segmental mobility of the spine.
The study included 35 men between 21 and 23 years of age, who practiced American football in teams from the Top League of the Polish American Football Association. Mean training history of the players was 6 years.
The control group comprised 35 healthy men aged between 21 and 23 years, who did not practice any sport discipline. The protocol of the study was approved by the Local Bioethical Committee, and all the subjects gave their written informed consent to participate in the project.
We examined the segmental mobility of the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar spine and determined the angles of physiological spinal curvatures. All the measurements were taken in the same baseline position (standing freely with arms alongside the trunk, equal pressure applied on both feet, and head in the horizontal Frankfurt plane). The spinal mobility was determined in three planes: sagittal, coronal, and transverse. All the measurements were taken in the same room, with air temperature between 22°C and 24°C. Each participant was examined at the same time of the day; the day was free from any other physical exercise and training.
We used the system of Penny & Giles tensometric electrogoniometers, modified according to Boocock in order to eliminate potential measurement bias associated with shifting skin and soft tissues in relation to bones (9). The measurements were taken according to Lewandowski (3). Sensors of the electrogoniometer were placed alongside the long axis of participant’s body and fixed to the skin with an aid of double-sided medical adhesive tape.
Basic statistical characteristics of studied variables: arithmetic means, standard deviations, and minimum and maximum values were determined. As the normal distribution of the studied material was confirmed by means of the Shapiro-Wilk test, the parametric Student t-test was used to verify the significance of intergroup differences. The results documented in our participants were compared with the age-adjusted reference values reported by Lewandowski (3).
The analyzed groups differed significantly in terms of the angles of cervical and lumbar lordosis. The average cervical lordosis in football players was 1.1° greater than in the controls. The increased cervical lordosis of the athletes was confirmed on comparison with the respective reference values. The intergroup differences in the angles of thoracic kyphosis did not prove significant. The most pronounced intergroup differences pertained to lumbar lordosis. Football players were characterized by an increased angle of this curvature, by 2° on average, as compared to the controls and normative values (tab. 1, 2).
Table. 1. Basic statistical characteristics of the physiological spinal curvatures in American football players and in the controls (*p < 0.05).
CurvatureFootball playersControlsStudent t-test
N x (o)SDN x (o)SDtdfp
Cervical lordosis3536.892.363535.771.862.19680.032*
Thoracic kyphosis3531.602.343531.201.950.78680.440
Lumbar lordosis3537.912.893535.492.233.93680.000*
t – values read from respective distribution tables; df – degrees of freedom; p – level of statistical significance
Table. 2. Reference values of the physiological spinal curvatures in 22-year-old men, according to J. Lewandowski (3).
Curvature x (o)SD
Cervical lordosis36.525.21
Thoracic kyphosis32.434.15
Lumbar lordosis36.064.97

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otrzymano: 2013-08-12
zaakceptowano do druku: 2013-09-02

Adres do korespondencji:
*Michał Wendt
23/12 Skorupki St., 62-060 Stęszew
tel.: +48 728-834-690
e-mail: wendt.m@interia.pl

New Medicine 3/2013
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