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J Athl Train. 2000 Apr-Jun; 35(2): 204–211.
PMCID: PMC1323419

A Classification System for the Assessment of Lumbar Pain in Athletes

Jonathan F. Heck, MS, ATC* and Jeana M. Sparano, MPT



To present a lumbar pain classification system and its rationale as an alternative to pathology-based diagnosis for athletes.


Lumbar pain is a common problem in both athletes and in the general population. Although common, the etiology of lumbar pain cannot be identified in 80% to 90% of patients. Lumbar injuries are often evaluated using a pathology-based model. This approach attempts to pinpoint the cause of the pain, making lumbar pain evaluation difficult.


We developed a 4-level classification system that groups athletes based on signs and symptoms. It does not necessarily attempt to determine the cause of pain. We use this classification system for referral, participation, and rehabilitation decisions.

Clinical Technique:

This assessment technique eliminates much of the ambiguity associated with lumbar pain. Athletic trainers can use this technique on all athletes presenting with lumbar symptoms.

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Selected References

These references are in PubMed. This may not be the complete list of references from this article.
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