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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Strengthen your hips to prevent runners’ knee

Knee pain, or more specifically, patellofemoral pain (PFP), is one of the most common injuries incurred by female runners. Tracy Dierks and his colleagues at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis have hit upon one possible treatment: a series of exercises designed to strengthen runners’ hips.

Typically, a PFP sufferer begins to feel knee pain a little while into her run. The pain gets progressively worse until the athlete stops running, at which point the knee pain stops almost instantly. Like with osteoarthritis, the cartilage between the thighbone and the kneecap appears to be wearing away. Previous research on PFP had focused on hip problems as possible causes for the degradation. Dierks and his team decided to test whether specific hip exercises could treat the ailment.

The scientists took a small sample of female runners. Hip strength measurements were taken at the onset of the study. For the next six weeks, the runners were given twice-weekly hip strengthening exercises, at which point hip strength measurements were repeated. Women who had begun the study feeling intense knee pain whenever they ran on a treadmill, completed the study six weeks later with little or no knee pain.

Dierks plans to run further tests to both confirm his theory about the connection between hip strength and PFP, and to improve the exercise treatment regiment, which at this point consists mainly of single-leg squats and resistance band exercises.