Do you hear your “voice?”
Or should I rather say, voices? Every part of the body has its own voice, combining like a choir to sing the song that is you.
It is the body that can often help us find our way back when we are lost. Sometimes, with seemingly random incidents, the body speaks to us when we need it most.
But too often we are deaf to the body’s cries.
It is often a voice of pain, contractures, injuries. The body cries out, sometimes tragically, unanswered.
The part of the body that often screams loudest is the psoas muscle. This heart-shaped muscle that plays such a large part in our physical wellbeing but, alas, is still so little known.
- September 2018, Australian Open Tennis. Psoas muscle injury for Rafael Nadal.
- October 2018, Italian National Football Team. Contractures of the Psoas muscle for Federico Bernardeschi.
- September 2019, Nantes, France. Psoas muscle injury for the Venetian Filippo Lanza.
The list goes on and on.
Acute muscle injuries are frequently encountered in all competitive and non-competitive disciplines. Their incidence rate has been calculated at between 10 and 30% of all sports injuries. And it is very common that this muscle is the one that gets injured.
Is it pure coincidence?
Let’s try and learn more about it.
From cycling to soccer, from tennis to volleyball, from skiing to athletics and running. In every sport, each muscle must have very specific characteristics: strength and resistance, readiness and speed, extensibility and flexibility. These characteristics are acquired with specific training. However, often we push our bodies too far, damaging muscles instead of strengthening them.
The three aforementioned characteristics are also based on three different systems working together:
- The biomechanical structure of the muscle.
- Metabolic activity.
- The neuromuscular system.
The first gives visco-elastic and contractile properties, while the second affects the power, duration and inertia of muscular activity. The third allows the body to regulate voluntary, anatomical or reflex activities, influencing postural and gestural control in each sport.
The psoas muscle is largely responsible for our posture and our balance, not only physically but mentally.
Located at the center of the body and formed as a sort of belt, it is one of the muscles deepest inside us. It passes under the bowels from the lumbar spine and the small trochanter of the femur. In other words, it is the muscle that allows us to stand and rotate the pelvis, to flex our legs and extend and move the hip.
I would say that the psoas is the most important muscle in any sport!
Often, unfortunately, it used overused and poorly managed.
Let’s consider the detail.
In cycling, there is a retroversion of the pelvis - due to the position in the seat - which inevitably accentuates a loss of natural lordosis. This causes the psoas muscle to shorten, a situation already prone to causing inflammation in the psoas.
When pedaling the psoas is particularly stressed, as it has a fundamental role in the flexion of the hip joint. The iliopsoas contracts to allow the recovery of the leg, so that the crest-hip-knee angle is reduced and the muscle shortens. If over-stimulated, hypertrophy triggers inflammation and contracture.
Fulvio Messini, the great coach of Pietro Mennea, mentions in his latest book the psoas as the most important muscle in sports. He dedicates a lot of attention to it through core strengthening, which is the best way to train the abdominals without overly stressing the psoas. It also promotes elasticity and mobility of the muscles.
Soccer player posture?
Shoulders up, feet resting mainly on the outside; lumbar hyperlordosis and subsequent pelvic inversion; internal rotation of the femurs and external rotation of the tibiae, with consequent excess pressure of the patella on the external condyle of the femur!
This is an absolutely typical situation of a psoas that will make it scream in suffering.
And Nadal…dear Nadal!
Tennis requires a certain positioning of the body, both for the right side and the back side, with rotational stresses that are balanced by the hip (and the psoas!). At the shoulder, in contrast, the kinetic chain is much simple and involves only one limb.
That said, tennis players all have an asymmetric hypertrophy of the psoas, with a consequent increase in diameter of the non-dominant hip iliopsoas.
The abdominal musculature, of which the psoas is its belt, plays a significant role in the stability of the torso. It constitutes a mechanical link between the lower limbs and the upper limbs in the kinetic chain, in particular during the serve.
A history of abdominal strains is reported in at least 10% of tennis players. The stretching of the abdominal muscles in tennis players is a debilitating trauma, and generally affects the rectus abdominal muscle on the non-dominant side. It takes 4-8 weeks for full recovery and has a tendency to relapse if the player returns to competition too early.
An asymmetric hypertrophy of the iliopsoas is also known to occur in tennis players.
Ideally we would be able to wear some sort of “band” to protect the psoas, but that is not currently an option.
The fact remains that it is utterly critical to properly train this muscle!
Good fitness to everyone!