The prevalence of shoulder pain in professional male wheelchair basketball players in Gauteng, South Africa

Lepera, Claudia
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Introduction Disabled sport has become very popular over the last decade with a variety of sports now available for persons with disabilities to compete in. Wheelchair basketball is a fast growing sport in South Africa. However, it is also considered a high-risk sport with most reported injuries coming from participating in the game along with tennis, road racing, rugby and soccer (Nunome et al, 2002, Ferrara and Peterson, 2000 and Curtis, 1997). The sport is characterised by high intensity propulsion and manoeuvring as well as reaching overhead for shooting, passing and rebounding (Goosey-Tolfrey et al, 2002 and Curtis et al, 1999). The athletes are thus at risk of developing in particular shoulder injuries. This study aimed to establish the prevalence of shoulder pain in South African; Gauteng based professional male wheelchair basketball players. It aimed to highlight predisposing factors contributing to the prevalence of shoulder pain as well as establish whether there is a difference in shoulder pain between the wheelchair bound athletes vs. the otherwise ambulatory athletes. By quantifying the magnitude of the problem it was hoped that awareness would lead to measures taken to rectify any problems highlighted by the research. Methods Twenty-nine professional South African: Gauteng male wheelchair basketball players took part in a cross sectional descriptive survey based study. The researcher, following signed informed consent, administered a piloted valid and reliable questionnaire to gain information regarding demographics, medical history and lifestyle habits. Results were expressed in the form of tables and graphs with frequencies, percentages and averages used to describe findings. Results Prevalence of shoulder pain was found to be 72.4% with 21 of 29 participants having experienced shoulder pain since using a wheelchair and 11 of the 29 (37.9%) having current shoulder pain. The number of years using a wheelchair significantly influenced the prevalence iv of shoulder pain (p = 0.03). One hundred percent (nine out of nine) of participants who had been using a wheelchair for longer than 10 years had experienced the problem, while of those who had been using a wheelchair for less than 10 years, 57.14% (four out of seven) had experienced shoulder pain. Time spent at work was found to be significantly associated with the presence of shoulder pain. Of the 12 people who worked more than 30 hours per week, 12 (100%) had experienced shoulder pain (p = 0.05). In the comparison of the ambulatory vs non ambulatory athletes, the wheelchair bound participants tended to be more likely to experience shoulder pain with 12 out of 15 having shoulder problems and 7 of the 12 ambulatory participants having experienced shoulder pain. This was however not a significant finding (p = 0.22). Conclusion It was found that the prevalence of shoulder pain in professional wheelchair basketball athletes in Gauteng was 72.4%. This was significantly associated with hours spent at work as well as years spent using a wheelchair. There were no significant findings regarding shoulder pain prevalence in the otherwise ambulatory vs wheelchair bound wheelchair basketball athletes. Shoulder pain is an important problem in the wheelchair basketball athlete. More education is needed regarding prevention of shoulder problems in our athletes with an emphasis on posture and ergonomic handling.
MSc, Physiotherapy, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand
wheelchair basketball players, shoulder pain, disabled sportsmen