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Role of the Flexion Relaxation Phenomenon in the Analysis of Low Back Pain Risk in the Powerlifter: A Proof-of-Principle Study

Nicola Marotta, Alessandro de Sire, Isabella Bartalotta, Maria Sgro, Roberta Zito, Marco Invernizzi, Antonio Ammendolia, and Teresa Iona

Introduction: Unlike the most common training approaches for bodybuilding, powerlifting programs are generally based on maximum and submaximal loads, putting enormous stresses on the lumbar spine. The flexion relaxation phenomenon evaluation is a clinical tool used for low back pain (LBP) assessment. This study aimed to evaluate the role of the flexion relaxation phenomenon in the analysis of LBP in the powerlifters. Methods: Healthy professional powerlifters participated in the study. In fact, we divided the participants into a LBP-low-risk group and a LBP-high-risk group, based on a prior history of LBP. Outcome measures included flexion relaxation ratio (FRR) and trough surface electromyography collected during trunk maximum voluntary flexion; furthermore, during a bench press lifting, we measured the height of the arched back (ARCH), using a camera and the Kinovea video editing software, to consider a potential correlation with the risk of LBP. Results: We included a group of 18 male (aged 24–39 y) powerlifters of 93 kg category. We measured a nonsignificant mean difference of ARCH between low-risk LBP group and high-risk LBP subjects. Curiously, maximum voluntary flexions were both above the threshold of 3.2 μV; therefore, with an absence of appropriate myoelectric silence, on the contrary, the FRR ratios were higher than 9.5, considering the presence of the phenomenon, exclusively for the low-risk group. The lumbar arched back measurement data did not report any association with the LBP risk, regarding the maximum voluntary flexion value, and even more than the FRR there is a relationship with the presence or the absence of LBP risk. Conclusions: FRR could be considered as a useful parameter for studying the risk of LBP in powerlifting. The FRR index not only refers to the possible myoelectric silence of the lumbar muscles in trunk maximum forward flexion but also takes into account the energy value delivered by the lumbar muscles during the flexion. Furthermore, we can indicate that the size of the powerlifter ARCH may not be a determining factor in the occurrence of LBP.

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Voluntary Contraction of the Abdominal Muscles Increases Hip Muscle Activation During Lower-Extremity Exercises: A Critically Appraised Topic

Birgul Dingirdan, Pinar Kuyulu, Ezgi Nur Can, Kubra Caylan Gurses, and Gulcan Harput

Clinical Scenario: Existing studies have posited that incorporating abdominal enhancement techniques during lower-extremity exercises might mitigate compensatory pelvic motions and enhance the engagement of specific hip muscles. Clinical Question: Does performing lower-extremity exercises with abdominal enhancement techniques increase hip muscle activation levels in healthy individuals? Summary of Key Finding: After the literature review, 4 cross-sectional studies met the inclusion criteria and were included in this critically appraised topic. Clinical Bottom Line: There is moderate evidence to support that prone hip extension with abdominal enhancement may increase gluteus maximus and hamstring muscle activity. Gluteus medius activity may not be affected by abdominal enhancement during hip abduction exercises. Strength and Recommendation: The collective findings from the 4 cross-sectional trials indicate that the incorporation of abdominal enhancement techniques during lower-extremity exercises may have the potential to enhance targeted muscle activation levels in healthy individuals. Further research is recommended to establish more robust conclusions.

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Treating Dystonia in a Soccer Player Through an Integrated Rehabilitative Approach: A Case Report

Valeria Giorgi, Giovanni Apostolo, and Laura Bertelè

Context: Sport-related dystonia is a rare form of activity-specific dystonia that can severely impair an athlete’s ability to perform. Due to a lack of data on the condition, it is difficult to diagnose and often overlooked, and no gold standard treatment has yet been defined. Case Presentation: We present a rare and challenging case of sport-related dystonia that affected a 24-year-old male professional soccer player. The patient presented with severe rigidity and dystonia of the right lower-extremity, particularly the ankle and foot. The symptoms set on >1 year prior to the presentation to our outpatient clinic. He began to complain of stiffness and difficulty moving his lower limbs, especially his right leg, initially when playing soccer, but then also when walking normally. On presentation, he was unable to run and walked with difficulty, supporting his body weight only on the outside of his right foot. He also reported a motor trick and reverse motor trick involving the oral musculature in order to move his lower limb more freely. Management and Outcomes: An integrated rehabilitation approach based on postural rehabilitation, neuromuscular rehabilitation, and dental intervention was used to successfully treat this condition. The approach included: (1) postural rehabilitation with the Mézières-Bertelè method to reduce muscular stiffness, (2) neuromuscular re-education with Tai Chi exercises and electromyography-guided biofeedback, and (3) dental intervention and swallowing rehabilitation to limit impaired oral habits (due to the relationship between his impaired lower limb movements and motor tricks of the oral musculature). After 7 months of integrated rehabilitation, the patient returned to professional soccer. Conclusions: This case report highlights the potential efficacy of an integrative rehabilitation approach for sports dystonia, particularly in cases where traditional treatments may not be effective. Such an approach could be considered a valuable option in the management of this rare, but debilitating, condition in athletes. Further research is needed to assess the effectiveness of this approach in larger populations.

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Volume 33 (2024): Issue 4 (May 2024)

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Relationships Among Baseline Concussion Balance Test and Gaze Stability Test Scores in Division-I Collegiate Athletes

Carolina P. Quintana, Anne D. Olson, Nicholas R. Heebner, and Matthew C. Hoch

Context: Sports-related concussions are commonly occurring injuries as a result of sports and recreation that may cause alterations in brain functioning. It is important to be able to evaluate the impact of these injuries on function to manage the injury recovery and ensure recovery. Recent literature suggests the use of objective evaluation strategies in a multifaceted approach to evaluate and manage these injuries. It is important to understand the relationships between the assessments and how best to utilize each assessment. The purpose of this study was to investigate if relationships exist between measures of vestibular function at baseline in assessments that may be used following sports-related concussions. Additionally, a secondary purpose was to determine if self-reported symptoms were related to performance on the assessments. This study aimed to identify if these assessments measured independent functions of the vestibulo–ocular reflex or if some redundancy existed among the assessment strategies. Design: A cross-sectional study design was used in a cohort of collegiate athletes ages 18–24. Methods: Participants completed demographics questionnaires, the Post-Concussion Symptom Scale, Gaze Stabilization Test, and Concussion Balance Test. Spearman rho correlations were used to examine the relationships between the measures. Results: One hundred and thirty-five collegiate athletes (82 males and 53 females) were included, representative of 3 sports (cheerleading, soccer, and football) with a mean age of 19.77 (1.42) years old. There were weak to moderate, significant relationships between measures of Gaze Stabilization Test and Concussion Balance Test errors (r = .20–.31, P = .001–.03). Conclusions: The direction of these relationships indicated that greater Concussion Balance Test errors were associated with greater Gaze Stabilization Test performance. These relationships may be attributed to the difficulty created by the foam conditions and the integration of more complex sensory tasks required to maintain balance during the more difficult conditions.

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Enlightenment on Knee Flexors Strength Loss in Cases of Posterior Knee Pain After Anterior Cruciate Ligament Reconstruction

Marc Dauty, Bastien Louguet, Pierre Menu, Jérôme Grondin, Vincent Crenn, Pauline Daley, and Alban Fouasson-Chailloux

Context: The persistence and the recurrence of posterior medial knee pain (PKP) after anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction (ACLR) using hamstring tendon graft are often overlooked during rehabilitation. Design: Cross-sectional observational study. Methods: The study aimed (1) to evaluate the prevalence of these types of PKP before 4 months post-ACLR, (2) to measure their consequences on the knee flexors strength, and (3) to evaluate the role of the type of ACLR. From a cohort of patients operated on with hamstring tendon procedures, the persistent and the recurrent PKP were sought at 4 months post-ACLR. The evolution of isokinetic muscle strength recovery in PKP subjects was compared with those of nonpainful subjects. The functional deficit was measured at 6/7 months post-ACLR by a hop test. Results: Three hundred seventeen subjects (25.8 [6.0] y) were included. At 4 months post-ACLR, 2 populations were identified based on the recurrent onset of PKP (PKP+, n = 40) or the absence of knee pain (PKP, n = 277). The prevalence of PKP was 8.3%. At the fourth month post-ACLR, the PKP+ group had a higher flexor strength deficit compared with the PKP group (limb symmetry index at 60°/s: 67.2% [12.4%] vs 84.3% [12.6%]; P < .05). At 6/7 months, the loss of strength persisted (limb symmetry index at 60°/s: 82.3% [13.4%] vs 87.7% [12.8%]; P < .05). The hop test deficit was comparable, and no difference was shown according to the type of graft. Conclusions: Persistent and recurrent PKP during the rehabilitation period were not uncommon and were associated with a worsening of flexors strength loss on the ACLR side.

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Humeral Torsion in Relation to Shoulder Range of Motion in Elite Field Hockey Players

Fran Vanderstukken, Valentien Spanhove, Ann Cools, and Dorien Borms

Context: Sport-specific adaptations in shoulder rotation range of motion (ROM) and the relationship with humeral torsion have been described in overhead-throwing sports. However, information is lacking for other shoulder-loading sports such as field hockey. Therefore, this study’s purpose was to evaluate humeral torsion in elite, male field hockey players and explore its association with shoulder ROM. Design: Cross-sectional study. Methods: Twenty-five male, elite field hockey players were included. Humeral torsion and shoulder external and internal rotation ROM were evaluated bilaterally by ultrasound and an inclinometer smartphone application, respectively. Results: Field hockey players showed a significantly increased humeral retroversion on the dominant compared with the nondominant side (P < .001; Cohen d = 1.75), along with a significantly increased external (P = .004; Cohen d = −0.64) and decreased internal rotation ROM (P = .003; Cohen d = 0.65). This finding illustrates a shift in total shoulder rotational ROM arc. Correlation analysis showed a significant moderate association between the increased humeral retroversion and decreased internal rotation ROM on the dominant side (r = .523). Conclusions: Elite male field hockey athletes show sport-specific adaptations regarding humeral torsion and shoulder rotation ROM, similar to throwing athletes. These findings increase our insight into the field hockey athlete’s shoulder, which is essential to optimize performance and assist in correctly interpreting shoulder rotational ROM measurements.

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Voluntary Contraction of the Abdominal Muscles During Shoulder Exercises Increases Scapular Muscle Activation: A Critically Appraised Topic

Kubra Caylan Gurses, Ezgi Nur Can, Pinar Kuyulu Haksal, Birgul Dingirdan, and Gulcan Harput

Clinical Scenario: The fascial relationship between scapular muscles and abdominal muscles has been documented from previous studies. However, it is not yet clear whether voluntary abdominal contraction has a beneficial effect on scapular muscle activity during shoulder exercises. Clinical Question: Do scapulothoracic muscle activation levels increase if shoulder exercises are performed with voluntary abdominal activation? Summary of Key Finding: After the literature review, 4 cross-sectional studies met the inclusion criteria and were included in this critically appraised topic. Clinical Bottom Line: There is moderate evidence to support dynamic shoulder exercises with voluntary abdominal contraction can increase trapezius and serratus anterior muscle activation level in asymptomatic shoulders. Strength and Recommendation: Findings from 4 cross-sectional trials indicate that there is moderate evidence supporting that dynamic shoulder exercises performed with voluntary abdominal contraction can increase scapular muscle activity.

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No Association Between Injury-Related Fear and Isokinetic Quadriceps Strength in Individuals With a History of Anterior Cruciate Ligament Reconstruction

Caitlin Brinkman, Elaine Reiche, Francesca Genoese, Johanna Hoch, and Shelby Baez

Context: Injury-related fear and quadriceps strength are independently associated with secondary anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury risk. It is not known whether injury-related fear and quadriceps strength are associated, despite their individual predictive capabilities of secondary ACL injury. The purpose of this study was to examine the association between injury-related fear and quadriceps strength in individuals at least 1 year after ACL reconstruction (ACLR). Design: Cross-sectional study. Methods: Forty participants between the ages of 18 and 35 years at least 1 year post unilateral primary ACLR. Participants completed the Tampa Scale of Kinesiophobia-11 (TSK-11) and a standard isokinetic quadriceps strength assessment using the Biodex Isokinetic Dynamometer. Pearson Product-Moment correlations were used to examine the linear association between the TSK-11 scores and peak torque (in nanometers per kilogram) for each limb and between the TSK-11 scores and limb symmetry indices for each limb. Pearson Product-Moment correlation coefficients (r) were interpreted as very high (.90–1.00), high (.70–.90), moderate (.50–.70), low (.30–.50), and no correlation (.00–.30). Results: The average TSK-11 score was 18.2 (5.3), average ACLR peak quadriceps torque was 1.9 (0.50) N·m/kg, average contralateral peak quadriceps torque was 2.3 (0.48) N·m/kg, and average limb symmetry index was 85.3% (12.6%). There was no statistically significant correlation between the TSK-11 and peak quadriceps torque on the ACLR limb (r = .12, P = .46), the TSK-11 and contralateral limb (r = .29, P = .07), or the TSK-11 and limb symmetry index (r = –.18, P = .27). Conclusions: There was no association between kinesiophobia and peak isokinetic quadriceps strength in individuals at least 1 year post-ACLR. Both factors, independently, have been shown to influence risk of secondary injury in patients after ACLR.

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Effective Stretching Positions of the Piriformis Muscle Evaluated Using Shear Wave Elastography

Hikari Itsuda, Masahide Yagi, Ko Yanase, Jun Umehara, Hiyu Mukai, and Noriaki Ichihashi

Context: Piriformis syndrome is often associated with muscle spasms and shortening of the piriformis muscle (PM). Physical therapy, including static stretching of the PM, is one of the treatments for this syndrome. However, the effective stretching position of the PM is unclear in vivo. This study aimed to determine the effective stretching positions of the PM using ultrasonic shear wave elastography. Design: Observational study. Methods: Twenty-one healthy young men (22.7 [2.4] y) participated in this study. The shear elastic modulus of the PM was measured at 12 stretching positions using shear wave elastography. Three of the 12 positions were tested with maximum internal rotation at 0°, 20°, or 40° hip adduction in 90° hip flexion. Nine of the 12 positions were tested with maximum external rotation at positions combined with 3 hip-flexion angles (70°, 90°, and 110°) and 3 hip-adduction angles (0°, 20°, and 40°). Results: The shear elastic modulus of the PM was significantly higher in the order of 40°, 20°, and 0° of adduction and higher in external rotation than in internal rotation. The shear elastic modulus of the PM was significantly greater in combined 110° hip flexion and 40° adduction with maximum external rotation than in all other positions. Conclusion: This study revealed that the position in which the PM was most stretched was maximum external rotation with 110° hip flexion and 40° hip adduction.