Can Sports Cause Scoliosis? Fort Collins Scoliosis Doctor | Square ONE

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Can sports cause scoliosis?

One sided sports such as tennis and golf are often blamed for contributing to the development of scoliosis, however there is no evidence to support such claims.

However there is a statistical prevalence with scoliosis and some sports, specifically dancing, rhymthmic gymnastics and competitive swimming have been found to correlate with increased incidence of scoliosis.

Competitive Swimming

Research has show that competitive swimmers have an increased prevalence of spinal deformities.  A study published in The Journal of Pediatrics:  Swimming and Spinal Deformities:  A Cross-Sectional Study  found competitive swimmers (particularly females) have more spinal asymmetries, positive scoliosis screenings and increased kyphosis compared to normal populations of the same age.  Female competitive swimmers are 2.5x more likely to have scoliosis than non-swimmers of the same age.  Additionally, swimmers were found to be a increased risk of low back pain.  This study suggest that adolescents that swim regularly (2 hours per day at least 4 times per week) are more likely to have scoliosis.

Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine: “The high-repetition nature of competitive swimming causes imbalances in musculature in the adolescent athlete.  Scoliosis as a musculoskeletal condition of the adolescent can be detected in high incidence among swimmers owning to the training phenomenon. 


A paper in Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation:  Prevalence and Predictors of Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis in Adolescent Ballet Dancers  found 30% of dancers tested positive for scoliosis compared to 3% of non-dancers.  This study suggest that dancers are 12.4 times more likely to have scoliosis than non-dancers of the same age.  Conclusion: Adolescent dancers are at significant higher risk of developing scoliosis than non-dancers of the same age.  Vigilant screening and improved education of dance teachers and parents of dance students may be beneficial in earlier detection and, consequently, reducing the risk of requiring surgical intervention.

Should kids with scoliosis stop participating in sports?

With the exception of competitive swimming, high level ballet and Rhythmic gymnastics, children should be encouraged to participate in sports.

SOSORT (Scientific Society on Scoliosis Orthopedic Treatment and Rehabilitation) recommends sport as a compliment of brace treatments.  Specific scoliosis exercises can be incorporated into sport specific training programs. Sports can also help strengthen the muscles that stabilize the spine.

Scoliosis Screenings

Research shows that early detection leads to early intervention and better outcomes (less surgeries).  Scoliosis progresses the fastest during growth spurts and The Scoliosis Research Society recommends girls should be screened at ages 10 & 12 and boys at 13-14yo.  Learn more about scoliosis screenings.

What is the best treatment for scoliosis?

Treatment for scoliosis is specific for each case and is dependent on ages  and many things need to be considered when determining the best treatment for each case including:  Severity of curve, Risk of progression, Distance to a scoliosis treatment facility, Willingness to wear a brace, etc.

Scoliosis Treatment in Adolescents

  • Curves <10° watch and wait
  • Curves 10°-25° night time bracing with scoliosis specific rehabilitation program
  • Curves 25°-30° part time bracing with scoliosis specific rehabilitation program
  • Thoracic curves 30°-60° full time bracing with scoliosis specific rehabilitation program
  • Lumbar curves 30°-50° full time bracing with scoliosis specific rehabilitation program
  • Thoracic curves >60° surgical management
  • Lumbar curves >50° surgical management

What are the best braces?

Traditional scoliosis braces such as the Boston Brace are a symmetrical brace which is designed to hold the scoliosis in its position and just tries to stop the progression.

Modern Advanced Scolibrace

Scolibrace is different than traditional braces in that it’s an asymmetrical brace and it actually puts the scoliosis in its 3D over


corrected position.  In other words it takes a right thoracic scoliosis and puts it in its exact opposition position (as seen in the picture on the right) and actually works to correct or improve the scoliosis instead of just trying to prevent progression.  Learn more about Scolibrace.

By Dr Chris Gubbels D.C.

If you think your child may be at risk of scoliosis and you would like to schedule a FREE scoliosis screening or for a FREE scoliosis consultation call 970-207-4463. 

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