STUDY OBJECTIVE--The aim was to assess the risk of back symptoms in people admitted to hospital because of traffic accidents and falls. DESIGN--The study was a cross sectional survey with information collected by postal questionnaire. Main outcome measures were associations between hospital admission for a traffic accident or fall and reported first onset of back symptoms at the same age and at later ages. SETTING--General practices in seven towns and one rural district. SUBJECTS--1172 men and 1495 women aged 20-59 years were selected from the age-sex registers of 136 general practitioners in the study areas. MAIN RESULTS--Low back pain was reported by 1556 subjects and hospital admission for a traffic accident or fall by 362. The incidence of low back pain was unusually high during the year of age at which subjects were first admitted to hospital for trauma (RR = 5.5, 95% CI 3.8-7.8). The risk of first developing symptoms in subsequent years was lower, but still significantly increased (RR = 1.3, 95% CI 1.1-1.6). Low back pain which started at the age of an accident tended to last longer than that occurring in other circumstances, and was more often ascribed to injury (56% of cases). However, this proportion was smaller than the calculated attributable proportion for traffic accidents and falls (82%). CONCLUSIONS--The data suggest that a person under age 60 years who is admitted to hospital for a traffic accident or fall has a 7% chance of developing low back pain as result of the injury. However, the link between the injury and subsequent symptoms is often not obvious to the patient.
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