Female athletes are particularly susceptible to anterior knee pain and injury to their anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). This increased risk is thought to result from poor dynamic control of the hip and knee, particularly when the foot hits the ground. The inability to control hip adduction, knee valgus, and internal rotation in the transition from an open- to closed-chain position of the leg may result from weakness of the hip abductor and external rotator muscles.
Researchers have suggested that females have weakness of their hip abductors, extensors, and external rotators (Prins et al. 2009). Exercise programs using Thera-Band® elastic resistance for females with anterior knee pain have been successful and featured previously in the Academy blog. These programs include core stabilization, as well as hip and knee strengthening exercises.
In the January 2012 journal, Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, Brazilian researchers published a study of 28 healthy female athletes. They wanted to determine if their exercise program could improve lower limb biomechanics, which theoretically may help reduce injuries. The subjects were assigned to either an 8 week training group or non-exercising control group.
The exercise group completed 3 phases of the exercise program:
Phase 1: Non-weight bearing exercises to enhance motor control and endurance of abdominal and hip muscles
Phase 2: Weight-bearing exercises to increase strength of hip and knee muscles
Phase 3: Functional Training exercises to learn proper alignment of the lower limb during functional activities
Participants used cuff weights, elastic bands, exercise balls, unstable platforms, and a step device. Thera-Band elastic bands were used and progressed through colors red to silver as subjects improved their strength and control in each phase.
Each group was pre- and post-tested for lower extremity strength, kinematics, and function. After the program, the training group significantly improved in functional hop performance, hip and knee strength, and single-leg squat kinematics. The authors concluded that their exercise program was effective at improving lower limb biomechanics in females.
Obviously, these results shouldn’t be used to conclude the exercise program will prevent injury or enhance performance. In addition, the study was limited by lack of randomization and long-term follow-up. Despite these limitations, this study does show that an 8-week exercise program including Thera-Band bands and exercise balls can improve the lower extremity biomechanics and strength in athletic females.
REFERENCE: Baldon Rde M, et al. Effect of functional stabilization training on lower limb biomechanics in women. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2012 Jan;44(1):135-45.