Sports massage is used by colleges and some high schools to keep athletes in top shape. A new study shows that low-back injuries are prevalent in young athletes, and those injuries put them at risk for long term back problems.

Low-back injuries are the third most common injuries suffered in athletes under age 18, according to the study presented by Loyola University Medical Center sports medicine physician Neeru Jayanthi, M.D.

Many injuries are severe enough to sideline young athletes for one to six months. The study included more than 1,200 young athletes who suffered 843 injuries. Among the study results:

• Lower back injuries accounted for 127 injuries (15.1 percent of the total). • The only injuries more common were knee (31.1 percent) and ankle (16 percent).

• Other common injuries include head injuries and concussions (13.4 percent), shoulder (10.7 percent) and hip (6.4 percent).

• Sixty-one percent of back injuries were less serious, such as injuries in the lumbar facet and sacroiliac joints. But 39 percent were serious, including stress fractures and complications of stress fractures such as spondyloysis and spondylolisthesis.

The findings were presented Oct. 28 at the American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference and Exhibition in Orlando, Florida.