Objective: To test for differences in strength of 6 muscle groups of the hip on the involved leg in recreational runners with injuries compared with the uninvolved leg and a control group of noninjured runners.
Design: Descriptive analysis.
Setting: Three outpatient physical therapy clinics in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metropolitan area.
Participants: Thirty recreational runners (17 female, 13 male) experiencing a single leg overuse injury that presented for treatment between June and September 2002. Thirty noninjured runners (16 female, 14 male) randomly selected from a pool of 46 volunteers from a distance running club served as controls.
Main Outcome Measures: Self-report demographic information on running habits, leg dominance demonstrated by preferred kicking leg, and injury information. Muscle strength of the 6 major muscle groups of the hip was recorded using a hand-held dynamometer. The highest value of 2 trials was used, and strength values were normalized to body mass2/3.
Results: Results comparing the injured and noninjured groups showed that leg dominance did not influence the leg of injury (χ2(1) = 0.134; P = 0.71). Correlations for internal reliability of muscle measurements between trials 1 and 2 with the hand-held dynamometer ranged from 0.80 to 0.90 for the 6 muscle groups measured, and all P values were less than 0.0001. No significant side-to-side differences in hip group muscle strength were found in the noninjured runners (P = 0.62-0.93). Among the injured runners, the injured side hip abductor (P = 0.0003) and flexor muscle groups (P = 0.026) were significantly weaker than the noninjured side. In addition, the injured side hip adductor muscle group was significantly stronger (P = 0.010) than the noninjured side. Duration of symptoms was not a contributing factor to the extent of injury as measured by muscle strength imbalance between injured and uninjured sides.
Conclusions: Although no cause-and-effect relationship has been established, this is the first study to show an association between hip abductor, adductor, and flexor muscle group strength imbalance and lower extremity overuse injuries in runners. Because most running injuries are multifaceted in nature, areas secondary to the site of pain, such as hip muscle groups exhibiting strength imbalances, must also be considered to gain favorable outcomes for injured runners. The addition of strengthening exercises to specifically identified weak hip muscles may offer better treatment results in patients with running injuries.