Weak glutes could be the answer
By Amby Burfoot
A new study from East Carolina University has added weak glutes to the list of possible causes of knee pain among women runners. In a comparison of 20 healthy male runners and 20 healthy female runners, the females exhibited 40 per cent greater peak gluteus maximus muscle activation and 53 per cent higher average gluteus activation than the males.
None of the women had knee pain, sometimes called patellofemoral pain (PFP) or patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS) by physicians and therapists. And head researcher John D. Willson is quick to point out that his study was not an experimental trial, and should not be used to give therapy recommendations.
However, past research has shown that women suffer from PFP twice as much as men. And the researchers do note that greater glute activation could lead to earlier fatigue that promotes “aberrant hip and knee joint kinematics.” Thus, “further study of the potential benefit of hip endurance training for prevention or treatment of running-related injuries such as PFP seems justified.”
All runners ran roughly 30 kilometres/week, and had 5 to 6 years of experience with running. In the study, they ran at 4:30 pace.
Some other recent studies have suggested that weak hips could contribute to running injuries, and that hip-strengthening could help.
The “2nd International Research Retreat on Patellofemoral Pain” produced a number of consensus statements from the assembled world experts. These included the following:
1. PFP is multifactorial and the injured, painful state can be caused by multiple mechanisms.
2. PFP affects as many as 2.5 million runners per year, with females having a higher risk than males.
3. There is evidence that treating hip muscle weakness can reduce PFP.
4. There is evidence that taping/braces, and orthotics with physical therapy can help.
5. There is some evidence that changing from a rearfoot strike to a non-rearfoot strike can help.
6. PFP is not easy to treat. As many as 70 to 90 per cent of individuals with PFP have chronic or recurrent pain.
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