The prevalence and profile of musculoskeletal pain in elite wheelchair basketball players of different point classifications in South Africa
Mateus, Isabel Sita Maharaj
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Background There has been a remarkable increase in the participation of sport for athletes with disabilities. Consequently, there have been many international studies on injuries in athletes which have shown a high prevalence in wheelchair basketball, largely attributed to the fast-paced, high intensity nature of the sport. This sport has grown worldwide including South Africa, however, very little research has been published on South African wheelchair basketball players and more research is, therefore, needed. Aim To determine the prevalence and profile of musculoskeletal pain in elite wheelchair basketball players of different point classifications in South Africa. Hypothesis 1: Upper extremity (including neck and back) pain is experienced more commonly in lower point classified wheelchair basketball players than in higher point classified players. Hypothesis 2: Lower extremity pain is experienced more commonly in higher point classified players than in lower point classified players Method This study was a quantitative, cross-sectional, questionnaire-based study. The questionnaire comprised of sub-sections on demographics and disability characteristics; activity levels pertaining to wheelchair basketball and other sport/physical activity; the prevalence of pain and the impact thereof on wheelchair basketball and/or activities of daily living. This questionnaire was administered to 48 wheelchair basketball players who were competing in the 2015 Supersport League. A response rate of 70% was decided as the lower limit cut-off for statistical power. Results Fourty-three participants responded yielding an 89.58% response rate. The mean age of participants was 33.3 (SD:9.5) years and the majority of participants (n=35) were male and African (n=29). Out of the 43 participants, 79.1% (n=34) used mobility devices, the majority (n=20) used wheelchairs. Most of the participants (n=41) played wheelchair basketball for more than five years and 32 participants did not participate in other sport. Almost half of the participants (n=25) experienced musculoskeletal pain in the last twelve months or at present, 75% of whom (n=12) visited a Physiotherapist for the pain. More than half of these participants (n=15; 60%) reported that the pain negatively affected their basketball performance. It was established that arm pain occurred frequently in lower point classified players (1.0-2.5 point players) and that hand and wrist pain was also more prevalent in lower point players than in higher point players. The prevalence of lower extremity pain was low and there was no statistically significant difference between higher and lower point classified players. Conclusions and Recommendations The finding that upper extremity pain occurred more frequently in lower point classified players was in keeping with the first hypothesis (the null hypothesis was, therefore, rejected). The second hypothesis was, however, rejected (and the null hypothesis was, therefore, accepted) as lower extremity pain did not occur more frequently in higher point classified players than in lower point classified players. The Eta scores may have been higher and may have shown a much larger than typical relationship between point classification and the prevalence of musculoskeletal pain had there been a larger sample size. Notwithstanding this limitation, it is a challenge to obtain a significantly larger sample size due to the nature and limited number of participants in this sport. More studies are warranted on this group of individuals, as a large number experienced pain which affected more than half of the participants’ performance in wheelchair basketball. These studies are important for the future success of the South African players and the sport in South Africa.