The role of core stability in running and its influence on injury risk in runners is not well understood. The purpose of this study was to investigate the effect of core stability (and core fatigue) on running mechanics. We hypothesized that decreasing core stability in novice runners would result in altered running mechanics previously associated with increased risk for common lower extremity running injuries.
Three-dimensional running kinematics and kinetics and seated postural sway on an unstable surface were collected on 25 healthy, novice runners before and after they performed a core stability knockdown protocol (CSKP), designed to temporarily reduce participants’ core stability in a single testing session.
Linear mixed models demonstrated that the CSKP resulted in an increased peak knee flexion moment (0.51%BW·ht increase, effect size = 0.49, P = 0.021) and a decreased vertical average loading rate (4.5 BW·s−1 decrease, effect size = 0.44, P = 0.037) during running, but no significant changes in peak knee adduction moment, knee adduction impulse, hip adduction moment, hip adduction impulse, or peak vertical ground reaction force (all P > 0.05). Of 25 runners, 20 demonstrated a measurable decrement in their core stability as defined by their seated postural sway center of pressure excursion changing more than the standard error of measurement of 76 mm.
An experimentally induced decrement in core stability in novice runners caused an increased peak knee flexion moment during stance, which has previously been associated with increased patellofemoral contact pressure during running. Therefore, these results demonstrate that insufficient core stability in novice runners may be a risk factor for developing patellofemoral pain. Other results did not support a role of core stability in other common overuse running injuries in this population.