Association Between Hip Rotation and Activation of the Quadriceps and Gluteus Maximus in Male Runners

Orthop J Sports Med. 2020 Nov 5;8(11):2325967120962802. doi: 10.1177/2325967120962802. eCollection 2020 Nov.


Background: Although running can provide health benefits, knee joint injuries are frequently reported by recreational runners. To date, the precise mechanism responsible for anterior knee pain remains elusive, and the source of symptoms is debated. Inconsistencies are found in the literature pertaining to the relationship between hip mechanics and activity in the quadriceps and gluteus maximus (GMax) during the running gait.

Purpose/hypothesis: To investigate the correlations between hip rotation and the activity in the quadriceps and GMax during running. We hypothesized that increased hip rotation is correlated with decreased activity in these muscles.

Study design: Descriptive laboratory study.

Methods: A cohort of 30 healthy recreational runners volunteered to participate in the study (mean ± SD age, 28.8 ± 5.66 years; height, 1.73 ± 0.05 m; mass, 69 ± 6.3 kg; body mass index, 23.02 ± 1.42 kg/m2). Surface electromyography (EMG) data were obtained from the GMax, vastus medialis obliquus (VMO), and vastus lateralis obliquus (VLO). These data were synchronized with a motion capture system during a level-surface running activity at a speed of 3.2 m/s.

Results: A significantly strong, negative correlation was found between the hip internal rotation angle and EMG activity of the GMax and the VMO. However, the VLO showed a significant, moderate, and positive correlation of activity with the hip internal rotation angle.

Conclusion: The present study showed that during level-surface running, decreased GMax activity may be the cause of distal joint injuries and alteration in quadriceps muscle activity.

Clinical relevance: Because GMax activity is important for controlling the lower body mechanics during running, evaluating GMax activity and internal hip rotation angle is important to prevent the running-related knee injuries that are linked to quadriceps deficits, such as patellofemoral pain. Additionally, clinicians and trainers should consider strengthening the GMax while rehabilitating running-related knee injuries.

Keywords: EMG; gluteus maximus; hip internal rotation; quadriceps.