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Objectives: Lumbar disc disease is a known cause of back pain. Increasingly it is thought that cam morphology of the hip may have a causal role in development of lumbar disc disease. The aim of this study was to describe the morphology of the hip and investigate the association of cam morphology with lumbar disc disease observed on MRI in elite rowers. Methods: Cross-sectional observational study of 20 elite rowers (12 male, 8 female, mean age 24.45, SD 2.1). Assessment included clinical examination, questionnaires, 3T MRI scans of the hips and lumbar spine. Alpha angle of the hips and Pfirrmann score of lumbar discs were measured. Results: 85% of rowers had a cam morphology in at least one hip. Alpha angle was greatest at the 1 o'clock position ((bone 70.9 (SD 16.9), cartilage 71.4 (16.3)). 95% of the group were noted to have labral tears, but only 50% of the group had history of groin pain. 85% of rowers had at least one disc with a Pfirrmann score of 3 or more and 95% had a history of back pain. A positive correlation was observed between the alpha angle and radiological degenerative disc disease (correlation coefficient=3.13, p=0.012). A negative correlation was observed between hip joint internal rotation and radiological degenerative disc disease (correlation coefficient=-2.60, p=0.018). Conclusions: Rowers have a high prevalence of labral tears, cam morphology and lumbar disc disease. There is a possible association between cam morphology and radiological lumbar degenerative disc disease, however, further investigation is required.

Original publication




Journal article


BMJ Open Sport Exerc Med

Publication Date





hip, lumbar spine, rowing