The relationship between thoracic spine mobility and shoulder problems in a sample of surfers : a cross-sectional design

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de Jong, Sara
Author ORCID Profiles (clickable)
Master of Osteopathy
Unitec Institute of Technology
Moran, Robert
McEwen, Megan
Masters Thesis
Ngā Upoko Tukutuku (Māori subject headings)
New Zealand
surfing injuries
shoulder injuries
thoracic mobility
osteopathic medicine
de Jong, S. (2019). The relationship between thoracic spine mobility and shoulder problems in a sample of surfers: A cross-sectional design (Unpublished document submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Osteopathy). Unitec Institute of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand. Retrieved from
OBJECTIVES; Chronic shoulder injuries are prevalent amongst surfers and one potential underlying cause may be a lack of mobility in the thoracic spine. The objective of this cross-sectional study was to investigate the relationship between shoulder pain and thoracic mobility in surfers. METHODS: Surfers were recruited using emailed invitations to an existing database of surfers, and notices posted to surfing related social media sites. Auckland based surfers participated in a 30-minute measuring session where thoracic mobility was assessed using an electrogoniometer. Participants identified their level of shoulder pain and disability using a modified version of the Sports/Performing Arts Module in the Disability of the Arm, Shoulder and Hand (DASH) questionnaire in addition to identifying descriptive details such as age, height, surfing skill (Hutt Scale), and surfing history. RESULTS: Forty-one participants were recruited (n=29 males, n=12 females; mean ± SD age = 38.7 ± 11.9y, range (19-68 years)). No correlation was found between thoracic mobility and DASH scores. Findings showed a positive relationship between age and shoulder pain (r=.324*(-0.008, 0.635) p=0.039); skill level of the surfer and frequency surfed during the previous summer were also found to be correlated (r =.490** (0.207, 0.775) , p=0.001). There was a positive relationship between height and seated mobility in the lumbar spine (r =.311* (-0.034, 0.573), p=0.048). Lower thoracic spine symmetry was positively correlated with upper thoracic seated mobility (r =.349* (-0.013, 0.612), p=0.025). Negative relationships included frequency of surf sessions and shoulder pain (r =-.374* (-0.653, -0.049), p=0.016), and age and upper thoracic seated mobility (r =-.355*(-0.603, -0.023), p=0.023). Upper and lower thoracic spine prone mobility was negatively correlated (r =.365* (-0.628, -0.051), p=-0.019), and this was the same for lumbar spine prone mobility and age (r =-.417**(-0.648, -0.137), p=0.007). Other relationships that correlated negatively were upper thoracic paddling symmetry and frequency surfed during the previous summer (r =-.311*(-0.561, -0.023), p=0.048), and lumbar spine and lower thoracic spine paddling symmetry (r =-.415** (-0.676, -0.133), p=0.007). CONCLUSION: The correlation between DASH scores and thoracic mobility in the seated or prone position in this sample of surfers was small. Further research, such as a prospective longitudinal study exploring risk factors for the development of shoulder symptoms associated with surfing would be beneficial.
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