Back disorders among Israeli youth: A prevalence study in young military recruits

Yosefa Bar-Dayan, Yair Morad, Keren Politi Elishkevitz, Yaron Bar-Dayan, Aharon S. Finestone*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background context: Back problems are reported with increasing frequency in adults and adolescents. Most information is from self-reported questionnaires or studies with small sample sizes. Reports were usually focused on specific diseases and biased toward overdiagnosis. Purpose: To assess the prevalence of common back disorders among a large cohort of 17-year-old males and females recruited by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Study design: A retrospective cross-sectional prevalence study. Patient sample: Seventeen-year-old Israeli male and female military recruits reporting as directed by the IDF for preinduction medical examination between January 01, 1998 and December 31, 2006. Outcome measures: Military functional limitation Grades 1 to 7 per diagnosis category. Methods: Military recruits were examined and classified based on medical and orthopedic diagnoses. They were referred for orthopedic consultation as necessary. Four orthopedic classifications were used: spinal deformity (including kyphosis and scoliosis), back pain (including neck and radicular syndromes), spondylolysis/olisthesis, and limitations resulting from trauma or spinal surgery. Data were coded into a central database, and descriptive statistics are presented. Results: The overall prevalence of back disorders among 828,171 17-year-old military recruits (61.5% male) was 16.8%. Back disorders resulting in significant functional limitation were diagnosed in 0.8% of recruits. The most prevalent diagnoses were spinal deformities (kyphosis and scoliosis, females 11.9%, males 11.5%) and back pain (females 3.0%, males 5.6%). Most of these diagnoses were rated as mild. Conclusions: When using objective criteria, overall back disorders in a large population of 17-year-old recruits were 17%, considerably lower than most reports. Back morbidity severe enough to prevent combat duty occurred at a rate of less than 1%, suggesting that serious back morbidity is not a frequent finding in this age group. Level of evidence: Symptom prevalence study, Level III.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)749-755
Number of pages7
JournalSpine Journal
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Back pain
  • Kyphoscoliosis
  • Spine surgery
  • Spondylolisthesis
  • Spondylolysis


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