ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE &
RISK OF INJURY
By: Dan Johnson, PT, Director of Rehabilitation Services
Everywhere one looks in the sports medicine literature, one sees articles related to the musculoskeletal core of the body. How do we define this core? The core includes the spine, hips/pelvis, abdominal, and thigh structures. The core muscles of the trunk and pelvis are primarily responsible for the stability of the spine and pelvis and are key in the generation and transfer of energy/force from larger to smaller body parts required in most athletic activities. If an athlete has a weak core, he or she will have difficulty stabilizing the center (core) of the body, so that the limbs can perform their specific athletic function. Core stability can be defined as the ability to control the position and motion of the trunk over the pelvis and leg to allow optimum production, transfer, and control of force and motion to the arms and/or legs.
Examples of how the core influences athletic performance and risk of injury include:
Hip muscle weakness and resultant alteration of hip/trunk biomechanics has been implicated in a higher risk of ACL tears in female athletes. When landing from a jump, female athletes tend to land with their knees in a, so-called, valgus position (knees go in). Hip abductor and external rotator weakness has been implicated as one possible cause of this problem. Hip muscle weakness has also been proposed to influence the development of anterior knee pain in both female and male athletes. These findings have led to changes in approaches to rehab and conditioning programs for the knees that now include an emphasis on core stabilization exercises and hip strengthening, as well as specific knee exercises.
A study done on tennis players who did not possess adequate bend in the knees resulting in decreased contribution of the hips and trunk, showed significantly increased loads on the dominant shoulder and elbow, thus predisposing those structures to upper extremity injury.
A recent article posted on The CompletePitcher.Com discusses the importance of core strengthening on pitching performance and injury prevention.
Discussion of specific core strengthening exercises is beyond the scope of this article but there is a wealth of information on core strengthening on the internet.
Given this information, it’s important to include core stabilizing exercises whether designing conditioning programs or rehabilitation programs for our athletes.
Reference: Plank Exercise, E Quinn, About.com Sports Medicine