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How the HIP and KNEE are related in sports injuries

The end of July means many things to people; the summer winding down, last minute vacations taking place, and, most importantly, getting ready for back to school!  Yes, kids, it’s that time already, whether you like it or not.  The start of school means a lot for the students, especially those involved in sports.  Many teams will start their training and workouts soon, if they already haven’t.  Football, Cross Country, and so many other fall sports are most likely already practicing.  And when training ramps up, the body undergoes more work and stress; a sudden increase in physical activity is expected with that.  One important factor to keep in mind when students undergo this change is to monitor safe training otherwise injuries may occur before even the season begins.  Don’t get us wrong here, we love practice and training, but don’t forget these are still kids we are talking about! 

High school sports in the fall require lots of dynamic movement, including football, cross country, soccer, tennis, ice/field hockey, and more.  Common injuries seen in these sports are knee injuries, which at times can be devastating for young athletes.  These sports require lots of quick, sudden stopping/starting/moving actions, which place more stress on the knees.  If the knees are not provided with the sudden stability that is required for shifting movements (muscles/tendons/ligaments), then injuries are common.  Many people will shift their focus onto just strengthening the knee to help prevent these types of injuries but one important area is often ignored during this process: the hips.  That’s right, people.  The hips.  You may be wondering how the hips play an integral role in knee strength and stabilization, attributes that are imperative for sports.  Well, let’s get right into it!

In order to understand this connection and process, we need to first look at everything as a whole, which includes the ankle joint.  When running, inward rotation (aka pronation) of the foot allows for the ankle, lower leg, and upper leg to also roll inward.  This motion is important in the transferring of weight between steps which allows for the body to keep proper motion and momentum.  But if the hip lacks the ability to roll inwards along with the other body parts, a tug-of-war develops within the kinetic chain of movement between the hip and foot.  At one end, the foot wants to turn the ankle and lower leg inward.  The other end is the upper leg where the femur (aka thigh bone) inserts into the hip, creating a “ball and socket” joint that gives the structure its variable degrees of movement. If that socket joint isn’t provided with proper mobility, the weight and motion cannot follow through with proper movement and weight distribution, which flaws the mechanics.  The opposing forces have to dissipate somewhere due to the physics of it all.  Where do these forces go exactly?  To the knee, the medium between the ankle and hip.  Stress and dysfunction are created in the knee over time due to improper mobility of the hip, leading to faulty movement patterns and worse, injuries.

So after reading how the hip can attribute to knee injuries, you may be asking, “How does one get hip dysfunction?”  Well, high school kids are in just the right demographic for obtaining this.  One of the more common causes include sitting for extended periods of time, whether it be in classes, playing video games, sitting on the computer, and so on.  It may sound like that’s exactly what they’re doing even now.  Another common cause is overdoing athletic movements that only require two planes of movement, such as running and biking.  These events cause the hip muscles to shorten over time, decreasing range of motion and mobility.

If you have any reason to doubt or feel you have injured a structure in your body, feel free to give our office a call.  You won’t find a team more excited to assess and treat you anywhere in South Jersey!  You can reach any of our multiple offices by calling our central line at 856-228-3100.

I look forward to discussing some more important high school sports related injuries in the coming weeks!

Author:  Tim Legath, DC, ART