Should Your and Your Man’s IT Band Pain Be Treated Differently?

injury prevention running

Conventional studies on gender differences in running injuries focused on comparing injured women to their injured male counterparts. The research then concluded if certain injuries were more prevalent among women or men. Traditionally, the prescription for rehab for men and women suffering the same injury was identical.

That may no longer be the case!

Alex Hutchinson, in his Sweat Science column in the May 4th Runner’s World, wrote about exciting new research conducted by Dr. Reed Ferber at the University of Calgary’s Running Injury Clinic. Instead of comparing injured women to injured men, Dr. Ferber and colleagues have been comparing injured women to non-injured women; at the same time, contrasting uninjured male to non-injured male runners.

Do women and men suffering the same injury exhibit different biomechanical weaknesses that lead to that injury? If yes, then effective injury recovery should be different for women and men too.

As reported in the Scandinavian Journal of Science and Sports, women suffering from ITBS (Iliotibial Band Syndrome) exhibited greater hip external rotation than healthy women runners.  On the other hand, men with ITBS did not display greater hip external rotation than non-injured men.  Instead, they showed greater ankle internal rotation than non-injured male runners.

In other words, the injured ITBS women had weaker hips than non-injured women.  However, the injured ITBS men had weaker ankles than their healthy counterparts.  Both of these weaknesses were significant contributors to the subjects’ ITBS.

The preliminary take away – women’s and men’s rehab from ITBS should differ too! The effective treatment needs to focus on strengthening each gender’s areas of biomechanical weakness.

Women suffering from ITBS need to focus on strengthening their hips.  Advise the men in your life with IT Band pain to strengthen their ankles.

If there are more studies that also conclude that gender-specific causes of the same injury, then running community needs to adopt a new paradigm. The evaluation of injury and prescription of rehab needs to be gender-specific.

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