Core Strength: A Key to Injury Prevention

Core Strength: A Key to Injury Prevention

As we keep our new year''s resolutions to get fit, many of us will choose running, walking or cycling as means of getting in shape. This kind of stress on a body puts us at risk of getting injured. There are multiple things to keep in mind when it comes to exercise and training the right way in order to avoid injury. Gradually increasing volume (increase by 10% per week), the right equipment, flexibility of key muscles and exercise surfaces are all important. Hip strength is also a key, and often overlooked, component to injury prevention.

It is not hip weakness as much as a muscle imbalance around the hip joint that predisposes runners, walkers and cyclists to injury. The aforementioned activities overwork muscles in one plane of motion. Legs are flexed forward and then powerfully extended to propel the body through space or push the pedals. Performing this motion repeatedly day after day develops tremendous strength in these muscles. The problem is that the body works in three planes, and these activities leave the two remaining planes of movement (sideways and rotation) underdeveloped by comparison.

This problem could contribute, but is not limited to, hip pain, knee pain, IT band syndrome, low back pain, shin splints, and even foot pain. A strong and stable hip joint, that stays where it should when your entire body weight comes down on a single leg, allows the other joints and muscles of the leg to work as they are intended. Abnormal motion at the hip during the stressful single leg propulsion phase will cause unnatural forces throughout the whole lower extremity and eventually something will become overused and inflamed. A hip joint with weak rotators and abductors (muscles that control sideways movement) can be likened to standing on a dock in the floating water. It takes more work to keep balanced. A strong hip joint would be more like standing on solid ground.

2006 Kentucky Women''s Track and Field AAA Coach of the Year Mike Horan of Eastern High School has incorporated the following exercises and concepts into his practices and instruction. He has reported that the number of injuries on his team have “significantly decreased.”

When performing the exercises shown here, one should do a high number of sets and repetitions with 60-90 seconds rest between to target the endurance component of the muscle. The main muscles of discussion are located behind and above the trochanter (ball of the hip you can feel). Common errors involve incorrect form causing hip flexors to be used, which do not need to be strengthened. Errors can be avoided by paying attention to where the effort is being felt. The exercises can be made more difficult by adding ankle weights or resisted elastic bands. This should not be done at the expense of poor form.

An orthopedic physical therapist is qualified to evaluate individual muscle groups and assign appropriate exercises for the deficits found. KORT offers free screens for anybody interested in this. Appointments can be made by calling 339-4700 or 339-4678. There are also free clinics offered on March 3 and April 7 from 12-2 PM at our Summit location ( 9424 Brownsboro Rd. next to Graeter''s Ice Cream).

Justin Banks PT, DPT, CSCS is a Doctor of Physical Therapy practicing at Kentucky Orthopedic Rehab Team''s (KORT) Springhurst location. He is also a level 1 certified USA track and field coach. He ran track and cross country at the University of Louisville from 2000-2002 and continues to compete for the Fleet Feet Louisville/Brooks Elite Development Club.