As CrossFit continues to explode in popularity, more athletes are experiencing pain and soreness in their knees and hips.
For many Crossfitters, the source of this discomfort doesn’t start where it is felt; rather, it emanates from the iliotibial band, commonly known as the IT Band. While IT Band Syndrome (ITBS) is common among runners, it is becoming increasingly prevalent in the world of Crossfit, where it is limiting hip, knee and ankle mobility at all levels, even among top athletes at the CrossFit Games.
Because of the interconnected nature of the human body’s kinetic chain, ITBS pain typically doesn’t manifest in the IT band. The kinetic chain is the structural and functional connection between the many joints in the human body; if any one of the links in this chain isn’t working properly, it will throw off the function of the rest of the chain.
ITBS pain can be felt on the outer part of the knee, and often extends into the hips, gluteus and pelvis. This can develop as a result of an existing knee injury, but for Crossfitters, it’s more likely a result of poor mobility and a portion of their kinetic chain being damaged or not functioning properly. Additionally, athletes not executing the proper range of motion when performing lifts and body weight movements will often exacerbate ITBS issue.
Why is this important to Crossfitters? Because IT Band pain will limit the ability to test threshold capacity when attempting all forms of squats, deadlift and other movements, like box jumps. Furthermore, the pain and stiffness associated with IT Band issues can drastically hinder an athlete’s ability to achieve proper depth during these movements.
High rep workouts, such as Karen (150 wall balls for time), can be particularly daunting to an athlete who does not address proper mobility or take the time needed to loosen up the hips, glutes and quads before a workout.
In order to address and avoid IT Band pain, athletes need to use a foam roller to kneed the hips, outer gluteus, quads and the outside of the knee. Another key to managing iliotibial band health is proper maintenance and mobility work in the hip flexors, lower back (posterior chain) and muscles of the gluteus.
Athletes can avoid becoming one of the growing number of athletes suffering from ITBS by incorporating the appropriate preventative measures into their workout. When looking for mobility cues and techniques for all aspects of CrossFit, athletes can search for specific tips and stretches on various CrossFit-focused websites like BreakingMuscles.com, WodTalk.com, RxReview.com, TheBox.com and MobilityWOD.com.
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About The Author: James Toland is a CrossFit L1 Trainer and coaches part time at Capital City CrossFit in Springfield, IL. James writes for both The Box Magazine and The CrossFit Games website as well as freelance work for various companies within the CrossFit community.