Lumbar spine loading during dressage riding: Implications for load management in lower back pain rehabilitation

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Context: Lower back pain is prevalent in horse riders as a result of the absorption of repetitive and multi-planar propulsive forces from the horse. GPS technology provides potential for in-vivo measurement of planar loading during riding. Objective: To quantify the uni-axial loading at the lumbar and cervico-thoracic spine during dressage elements. Design: Repeated measures, randomized order. Setting: Equestrian arena. Patients (or Other Participants): 21 female dressage riders. Intervention(s): Each rider completed walk, rising trot, sitting trot and canter trials in randomized order. A GPS unit was placed within customized garments at C7 and L5, collecting tri-axial accelerometry data at 100Hz. Outcome Measures: PlayerLoad based on the rate of change of acceleration, and calculated in the anteroposterior (AP), mediolateral (ML) and vertical planes during each trial. Results: There was no significant main effect for GPS location in the AP (P=0.758), ML (P=0.876) or V (P=0.762) planes. There was a significant main effect for pace in all trials (P<0.001), with successive elements eliciting significantly greater loading (P≤ 0.030) in all planes in the order walk < rising trot < canter < sitting trot. There was a significant placement x element interaction only in the AP plane (P=0.032) with AP loading greater at L5 during walk, rising trot and canter trials, but greater at C7 during sitting trot. Conclusions: The significant main effect for dressage element was indicative of greater pace of the horse, with faster pace activities eliciting greater loading in all planes. In-vivo measurement of spinal accelerometry has application in the objective measurement and subsequent management of lumbar load for riders.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)315–319
JournalJournal of Sport Rehabilitation
Early online date1 Mar 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 1 Mar 2020


  • injuries
  • accidents
  • rehabilitation
  • equestrian
  • low back pain
  • accelerometry
  • loading


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