Many non-contact musculoskeletal injuries are often attributed to muscle imbalances. Muscles in the body are designed to work in synergy to help stabilize joints to allow the extremities to move with great speed and power. There are over 20 different muscles that attach to the hip. When some of these muscles get overly tight, or weak, it leads to movement dysfunction that can cause injury down the leg and up through the lower back.
One of the most common muscle groups that are chronically tight in many people are the hip flexors, specifically the Psoas and Illiacus. The hip flexors raise the knees when standing and sprinting. Because most people sit for many hours a day, these muscles are put in a shortened position for prolonged periods of time. This causes these muscles to become tight, and when the hip flexors become too tight, they pull on the pelvis into an anterior tilt as shown in the picture below.
An anterior pelvic tilt puts added, undo stress on the hamstrings when sprinting. By stretching your hip flexors, you will help to better position the pelvis into a “Neutral Pelvic Tilt.” This neutral pelvis position is critical when sprinting. It helps prevent hamstring injuries by taking the stress and unwanted stretch off the hamstrings in the Terminal Swing Phase.
Core stability is another area often overlooked as an injury prevention strategy. In 2004, the Journal of Sport Physical Therapy released an article analyzing two different hamstring rehabilitation protocols. The first group focused on hamstring strengthening and stretching, and the second employed progressive trunk stabilization programming. At the one-year mark, the follow up showed the trunk stability (core stability) group had a re-injury rate of 7 percent compared with a 70 percent re-injury rate among the hamstring stretching/strengthening group. Core stability is an important aspect of rehabilitation and prevention of injury.
If your core is unstable, your pelvis and spine will be susceptible to additional, undesirable motion when sprinting. This leads to energy leaks throughout the core, which lessens an athlete’s power output into the ground. Proper core stability will help hold your pelvis and spine in a more stable, neutral position when sprinting, allowing maximum speed and power generation from the upper and lower extremities.