Coordinative variability and overuse injury

Sports Med Arthrosc Rehabil Ther Technol. 2012 Nov 27;4(1):45. doi: 10.1186/1758-2555-4-45.


Overuse injuries are generally defined as a repetitive micro-trauma to tissue. Many researchers have associated particular biomechanical parameters as an indicator of such injuries. However, while these parameters have been reported in single studies, in many instances, it has been difficult to verify these parameters as causative to the injury. We have investigated overuse injuries, such as patella-femoral pain syndrome, using a dynamical systems approach. Using such methods, the importance of the structure of coordinative variability (i.e. the variability of the interaction between segments or joints) becomes apparent. We view coordinative variability as functionally important to the movement and different from end-point or goal variability. Using concepts derived from the work of Bernstein, we conducted studies using a continuous relative phase and/or modified vector coding approaches to investigate the coordinative variability of overuse injuries. Consistently, we have found that the higher variability state of a coordinative structure is the healthy state while the lower variability state is the unhealthy or pathological state. It is clear that very high coordinative variability could also result in injury and that there must be a window of 'higher variability' in which non-injured athletes function. While this finding that coordinative variability is functional has been shown in several studies, it is still not clear if reduced variability contributes to or results from the injury. Studies are currently underway to determine the potential reasons for the reduced variability in injured athletes. Nevertheless, our laboratory believes that this understanding of how joints interact can be important in understanding overuse injuries.