Study design: Prospective case series.
Background: These case reports present results of the treatment of lateral knee pain in four female amateur triathletes. The athletes were referred to the author's clinic with either a diagnosis of iliotibial band friction syndrome or patellofemoral pain syndrome, all four having symptoms for longer than seven months. Changes in training routines were identified as the possible cause of the overuse injuries that eventually developed into chronic conditions.
Intervention: Treatment involved soft tissue mobilization of the musculotendinous structures on the lateral aspect of the knee.
Results: At four weeks, three of the athletes improved 9 to 19 points on the Lower Extremity Functional Scale, 3 to 5 points on the Global Rating of Change Scale, and demonstrated improvement in hamstring and iliotibial band flexibility. At eight weeks the Global Rating of Change for these three athletes was a 7 ("a very great deal better") and they had returned to triathlon training with no complaints of lateral knee pain. One athlete did not respond to treatment and eventually underwent arthroscopic surgery for debridement of a lateral meniscus tear.
Conclusions: After ruling out common causes for lateral knee pain such as lateral meniscus tear, lateral collateral ligament sprain, patellofemoral dysfunction, osteochondral injury, biceps femoris tendonitis, iliotibial band friction syndrome or osteoarthritis, soft tissue restriction should be considered a potential source of dysfunction. In some cases soft tissue restriction is overlooked; athletes go undiagnosed and are limited from sports participation.
Keywords: lateral knee pain; mobilization; soft tissue restriction; triathlete.