Iliotibial Band Syndrome in Crossfit Athletes

The iliotibial band is a thick band of fascia that runs along the outside of the thigh. Its primary function is to transmit forces generated in the hip down to the leg. Repeated overloading of the iliotibial (IT) band can lead to pain on the outside part of the knee, where the IT band attaches to the lower leg.  

Cause Iliotibial Band Syndrome

It was once believed that iliotibial band syndrome was caused by the IT band rubbing over the lateral condyle on the bone when bending the knee. This rubbing over the bone would lead to inflammation and pain on the outside of the knee. However, the research has shown that there is little to no inflammation with iliotibial band syndrome and the IT band cannot move over the lateral condyle. 

Instead, it appears that overloading to the iliotibial band causes compression between the band and the bone. This compresses the tissues between the IT band and the bone leading to irritation and pain. 

treatment of iliotibial band syndrome 

A conservative treatment approach is recommended for those suffering from iliotibial band syndrome. The treatment approach includes joint manipulation to the lumbo-pelvic-hip complex to help normalize the movement in the hips. Manual therapy, such as massage and Graston, to the gluteals and quadricep muscles will also help to decrease the pain associated with iliotibial band syndrome. Self myofascial release can also be performed with a lacrosse ball or foam roll to the glutes and quads to aid in decreasing the pain. 

NOTE: It is generally not recommended to foam roll directly on the iliotibial band. The iliotibial band is made of thick fascia and therefore has little capacity to stretch or elongate. It takes about 2040 pounds of pressure (9075N) to shear and compress the iliotibial band 1 percent. Although you are strong, you won't be able to generate enough force to cause an substantial change. Foam rolling directly on the IT band will just compress it against the bone, causing more pain.  

A progressive strengthening program for the gluteals can also help to decrease pain and minimize the risk of future flare ups. The strengthening program can start with lower load exercises with a band but should progress to more challenging exercises with weights to match the loads experienced during Crossfit.