Objective: To examine hip abductor strength in long-distance runners with iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS), comparing their injured-limb strength to their nonaffected limb and to the limbs of a control group of healthy long-distance runners; and to determine whether correction of strength deficits in the hip abductors of the affected runners through a rehabilitation program correlates with a successful return to running.
Design: Case series.
Setting: Stanford University Sports Medicine Clinics.
Participants: 24 distance runners with ITBS (14 female, 10 male) were randomly selected from patients presenting to our Runners' Injury Clinic with history and physical examination findings typical for ITBS. The control group of 30 distance runners (14 females, 16 males) were randomly selected from the Stanford University Cross-Country and Track teams.
Main outcome measures: Group differences in hip abductor strength, as measured by torque generated, were analyzed using separate two-tailed t-tests between the injured limb, non-injured limb, and the noninjured limbs of the control group. Prerehabilitation hip abductor torque for the injured runners was then compared with postrehabilitation torque after a 6-week rehabilitation program.
Results: Hip abductor torque was measured with the Nicholas Manual Muscle Tester (kg), and normalized for differences in height and weight among subjects to units of percent body weight times height (%BWh). Average prerehabilitation hip abductor torque of the injured females was 7.82%BWh versus 9.82%BWh for their noninjured limb and 10.19%BWh for the control group of female runners. Average prerehabilitation hip abductor torque of the injured males was 6.86%BWh versus 8.62%BWh for their noninjured limb and 9.73%BWh for the control group of male runners. All prerehabilitation group differences were statistically significant at the p < 0.05 level. The injured runners were then enrolled in a 6-week standardized rehabilitation protocol with special attention directed to strengthening the gluteus medius. After rehabilitation, the females demonstrated an average increase in hip abductor torque of 34.9% in the injured limb, and the males an average increase of 51.4%. After 6 weeks of rehabilitation, 22 of 24 athletes were pain free with all exercises and able to return to running, and at 6-months follow-up there were no reports of recurrence.
Conclusions: Long distance runners with ITBS have weaker hip abduction strength in the affected leg compared with their unaffected leg and unaffected long-distance runners. Additionally, symptom improvement with a successful return to the preinjury training program parallels improvement in hip abductor strength.