Objectives: 1) To evaluate strength changes in the hindfoot invertor and evertor muscle groups of athletes training and competing primarily in the counterclockwise direction on an indoor, unbanked track, and 2) to observe injuries occurring in these same runners over the course of an indoor season.
Design: Prospective observational study.
Setting: Fowler-Kennedy Sport Medicine Clinic, The University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario.
Participants: A convenience sample of 25 intercollegiate, long sprinters (200–600 m) and middle distance runners (800–3,000 m) competing and training with the 1995–1996 University of Western Ontario Track and Field team.
Main Outcome Measures: A standardized protocol using the Cybex 6000 isokinetic dynamometer was used to measure peak torques of the hindfoot invertor and evertor muscle groups of both limbs using concentric and eccentric contractions performed at angular velocities of 60, 120, and 300°/sec. Changes in peak torques between the preseason and postseason values were calculated and compared using a repeated measures analysis of variance test. Injury reports were collected by student athletic trainers and in the Sport Medicine and Physiotherapy clinic.
Results: Primary analysis indicated that the left (inside limb) invertors increased in strength significantly more than the right (outside limb) invertors (p = 0.01), while the right evertors increased in strength significantly more than the left evertors (p = 0.04). A high incidence of lower extremity injury (68%) occurred in this sample of runners, corresponding to an injury rate of 0.75 injuries per 100 person-hours of sport exposure. Although sample size was limited, secondary analysis indicated that strength changes were not significantly different for injured (n = 17) and uninjured (n = 8) runners (p > 0.05).
Conclusions: The observed small, but statistically significant, asymmetrical changes in strength of the hindfoot invertor and evertor muscle groups can best be described as a training effect. Altered biomechanics proposed to occur in the stance foot while running on the curve of the track are discussed in relation to the observed strength imbalance. A causal link between strength changes and lower extremity injuries cannot be inferred from this study, but suggestions for further research are made.