Lower Back Pain After Playing Soccer

Soccer Action

The lower back is generally not a major trouble spot for soccer players. Extensive reports on injuries by the American Academy of Pediatrics and others note instead a preponderance of leg injuries and concussions among those hurt playing the sport. Playing soccer actually tends to strengthen the core and back muscles, according to a 2009 study by Danish researchers published in "The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.” Still, high-profile players, such as Chelsea’s John Terry who suffered a herniated disk, have had to recover from back injuries. If you have the misfortune of lower back pain after playing soccer, a health-care professional can help you determine the precise cause and develop a recovery plan.

Herniated Disk

Pain in the lower back can be the result of a herniated disk pressing on the sciatic nerve, which can also cause weakness down the back of the calf. Disk problems including herniation may account for more than 25 percent of lower back injuries in athletes, writes Walter R. Frontera, dean of physical medicine and rehabilitation at the University of Puerto Rico School of Medicine, in the text “Clinical Sports Medicine.” Options for care include physiotherapy and surgery. In Terry’s case, he underwent arthroscopic surgery and was running under supervision of his doctor the day after surgery. He returned to league action after eight weeks.

Spondylolysis or Spondylolisthesis

Spondylolysis relates to a fracture of the pars interarticularis, a bony projection found on the back of a spinal vertebra. A related cause of lower back pain, spondylolisthesis, or the slippage of a disk, typically affects gymnasts, figure skaters and divers. Soccer players also often perform the twisting and arching movements that lead to spondylolisthesis. Repeatedly flexing and arching the back can create a dull or aching sensation in the lower back, with or without buttocks pain, which indicates one of these vertebral disorders.

Structural Problems

When the origin of the pain is vague in soccer athletes, the root may be leg length discrepancy; rotation of the sacroiliac joint, which is found in the pelvis; or asymmetry of the pelvis. According to team physician Melvin R. Manning of Texas Sports Medicine in an extensive review of soccer injuries published in 2006 in the journal “Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Clinics of North America,” heel lifts can address leg discrepancies.. Training adjustments may help female soccer athletes in particular who suffer lower back pain due to a muscle imbalance or overall weakness in the hip extensors.


You can rest, take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and apply heat for mild cases of lower back pain after soccer. Pain related to structural problems may dictate visits to a physical therapist or team trainer to address proper muscle balance on each side of the body, as well as strengthening and stretching the back muscles, Frontera notes.