By Jim Moore PT, OCS, ATC, FAAOMPT, Director | TAI Wandermere Physical Therapy
A major issue in a number of injuries that affect female athletes is weakness of the hip abductors and external rotators.
When you stand on your leg, these muscles help to prevent it from collapsing inward. Weakness of the hip abductors and external rotators can make you more susceptible to the stressful forces that act on the knee and the soft tissues of the hip, thigh, and lower leg during activity. The increase in stress can lead to overuse injuries, including iliotibial band (ITB) syndrome (pain on the outside of the knee), patellofemoral maltracking (pain in the front of the knee), patellar tendonitis (pain below your knee), and increased risk of a traumatic injury, like a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).
So, how can you tell if you have weak hip abductors or external rotators? Your physical therapist can help identify weakness or imbalances in your muscles and establish a program to increase your strength and muscle balance. You can get an idea of the strength of these muscles by doing a squat on one leg in front of a full-length mirror. Stand on one leg and squat down as far as you can (while still being able to return to your standing position without using the other leg) and watch what your knee does. If your knee falls to the inside, your hip muscles may be weak (your knee should stay in line with your foot).
Including strength training for the hip abductors and external rotators in your workout can help to decrease the potential risk of sustaining an injury and also lead to an increase in performance. Here are some suggestions.