As most runners know, aches and pains are a common part of training. However, according to a study published in the May/June issue of Sports Health: A Multidisciplinary Approach, the real culprit for overuse running injuries, such as patellofemoral pain syndrome, iliotibial band syndrome and Achilles tendonitis may have more to do with weakened hip muscles than how many miles run.

"Various studies have estimated that up to 70% of runners sustain an overuse running injury each year with more than 80% of those injuries occurring below the knee. Based on a literature review, it appears that foot pronation (how one steps) and inadequate hip muscle stabilization are the top categories for injury," said lead author Reed Ferber, Assistant Professor and Director of the Running Injury Clinic from the University of Calgary. "Hip muscle weakness especially appears to lead to atypical lower extremity mechanics and increases forces on knees and feet while running."

The study analyzed data from 1980 through July 2008 in MEDLINE, EMBASE, PsychInfo and CINAHL clinical databases. Information inclusion focused on studies that were directly related to risk factors for overuse.

One of the studies analyzed in the review suggested that after four to six weeks of strength training, 22 of 24 runners experienced significant decrease in pain and a 35-51% increase in hip abductor strength. "These results suggest that hip strengthening rehabilitation programs may be an effective way to lessen running overuse injuries," said Ferber.

Dr. Ferber recommends performing hip abductor strengthening exercises to prevent injury. Individuals should progress up to three sets of 10 repetitions gradually to avoid muscle soreness.

Published bimonthly, Sports Health is a collaborative publication from the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine (AOSSM), the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine (AMSSM), the National Athletic Trainers


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