Photo by Kevin Leclaire – UltiPhotos.com
There it is again — that nagging pain around your knee. You’ve tried to stretch and rest it, hoping it will go away on its own. Then someone suggests you might have a problem with your IT band. What’s that?
The iliotibial (IT) band runs along the outside of your leg, from your hip to just below your knee. Its role is to help stabilize your knee while you’re running. There’s much more to it than a simple expanse of connecting tissue, however.
“The IT band is composed of fascia — a tough bundle of fibers,” says Dogfish trainer Molica Anderson. “When the fascia gets tight, microtears can occur, which can lead to a buildup of scar tissue.” Because scar tissue is not as elastic as normal tissue, it pulls on points in the body, causing discomfort.
“On the Dogfish squad there was a high prevalence of IT band injuries this season,” says Anderson. “They’re very common in running and any sport where athletes plant and change direction.”
What to Look For
Those quick turns in Ultimate may lead to any number of sprains or other injuries involving the knee and leg. It’s important to have persistent pain checked out by your healthcare provider. As a potential starting point, here are some of the common symptoms of IT Band Syndrome:
* Lateral upper leg pain, behind the quad
* Lateral knee pain
* Pain at the hip
* Clicking over the outside of the knee
The first step to real healing? Don’t ignore discomfort! Anderson says if you already know you have an issue with your IT band, you can loosen it up with a foam roller. She stresses that if you use that technique it’s very important not to go over any bony protuberances.
The Graston Technique®, which uses metal tools to loosen up scar tissue, is another way Anderson helps athletes suffering from IT band issues.
“The reason the IT band gets tight is that it’s compensating for weakness or instability. Stabilizing and strengthening your hips and glutes is the top way to prevent IT band issues from occurring,” says Anderson.
Here’s one exercise you can do:
1) Place a resistance band around both ankles.
2) Step to the side for 10 yards out and back.
3) Alternate between keeping your legs straight as you move, and bending your knees as you move.
To perform at their peak, athletes need to listen to the signals their bodies send — like pain — and address issues in a timely manner. Getting out of pain, getting treatment and getting stronger will help lessen future incidents that can keep a player out of the game.
Read the previous articles in this series:
Note: The information provided in this article should be used as a reference and starting point for discussion with your primary care physician or specialist about a recovery and strengthening regimen that works best for you.