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The Local Stabilizing Muscles and Lower Limb Injuries

Today's post on the Pelvic Rehab Report comes from faculty member Allison Ariail, PT, DPT, CLT-LANA, BCB-PMD, PRPC. Allison instructs the ultrasound imaging courses, the next of which will be Rehabilitative Ultra Sound Imaging: Women's Health and Orthopedic Topics in Baltimore, MD on Jun 12, 2015 - Jun 14, 2015.

In the past several decades there has been quite a bit of research regarding stabilization of the low back and pelvic ring. We as therapists have changed our focus from working more of the global stabilization muscles to the local stabilizing muscles; the transverse abdominis, the lumbar multifidus, and the pelvic floor. Both research studies and clinical experience has shown us what a positive difference working on these muscles can makes for back pain and pelvic ring pain, as well as for the risk of injury in the back and pelvic ring. However, what does it do for risk of injury for the lower limb? In 2014, Hides and Stanton published a study looking at the effects of motor control training on lower extremity injury in Australian professional football players. A pre- and post-intervention trial was used during the playing season of the Australian football league as a panel design. Assessment included magnetic resonance imaging and measurements of the cross-sectional area of the multifidus, psoas, and quadratus lumborum, as well as the change in trunk cross-sectional area due to voluntary contraction of the transverse abdominis muscle. A motor control program included training of the multifidus, transversus abdominis, and the pelvic floor muscles using ultrasound imaging for feedback that then progressed into a functional rehabilitation program was used with some of the players. Injury data was collected throughout the study. Results showed that a smaller multifidus or quadratus lumborum was predictive of lower limb injury during the playing season. Additionally, the risk of sustaining a severe injury was lower for players who received the motor control intervention.

This is interesting and intriguing information. Yes, there are many factors that are involved in sustaining an injury during a sport. However, it would be a good idea to do a quick screen of the local stabilizing muscles before a playing season, whether it is a professional player or an adolescent player. Do adolescents really have issues with weakness in their local stabilizing muscles? Yes! Clinically I have seen adolescent players who display back pain and other issues related to weakness in their core muscles. Usually this occurs after they have gone through a growth spurt, but some of these adolescent athletes did not recover, even several years after the large growth spurt.

What a nice community service it would be to screen a local sports team for strength of the local stabilizing muscles in order to decrease injuries! It would also be nice to see additional research regarding this topic! To learn more about recent research and how to use ultrasound imaging to accurately assess and treat the local stabilizing muscles, join me at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore this June for the Rehabilitative Ultrasound Imaging for the Pelvic Girdle and Pelvic Floor course.



Hides JA, Stanton WR. Can motor control training lower the risk of injury for professional football players? Med Sci Sports Exec. 2014; 46(4): 762-8.

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