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Year : 2017  |  Volume : 17  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 168-173

Comparison of core stability in different sportsmen

Department of Physiotherapy, Tilak Maharashtra Vidyapeeth, Pune, Maharashtra, India

Date of Web Publication4-Oct-2017

Correspondence Address:
Gaurai Mangesh Gharote
Department of Physiotherapy, Tilak Maharashtra Vidyapeeth, Pune - 411 037, Maharashtra
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/sjsm.sjsm_11_17

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Introduction and Purpose: “Core stability” is seen as being pivotal for efficient biomechanical function to maximize force generation and minimize joint loads in all types of activities ranging from running to throwing. Despite the popularity of core stability training, relatively little scientific research has been conducted to compare core stability in different sportsmen. Therefore, the purpose of this review was to critically examine core stability and other issues related to this topic to determine useful applications for sport conditioning programs. Furthermore, the aim of this study was to compare core stability in different sportsperson belonging to the following categories: badminton, cricket (fast bowlers) (which are the overhead athletes), football, sprinters (nonoverhead athletes). To conclude which category among the ones mentioned above have the highest core stability in terms of core endurance.
Materials and Methods: Eighty participants in total were included in the study (twenty each from the above-mentioned sport). Demographic data, participation consent, and other data pertaining to their sport were taken, and they were instructed to perform core endurance tests which included the 60° flexion test, trunk extensor endurance test, right side plank test, and left side plank test. Analysis included a one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) to determine the difference between the four groups.
Results: ANOVA was performed and was statistically significant with P < 0.0001 for the flexion endurance test, P = 0.0030 for the extension endurance test, P = 0.0037 for right plank test, P = 0.0004 for the left plank test. P = 0.0107 for total core endurance hold time.
Conclusion: The results suggest that footballers had a higher core endurance followed by sprinters, cricket fast bowlers, and badminton players.

Keywords: Core endurance, core stability, nonoverhead athletes, overhead athletes

How to cite this article:
Gharote GM, Kapadia HJ, Yeole UL, Panse RB, Pawar PA, Kulkarni SA. Comparison of core stability in different sportsmen. Saudi J Sports Med 2017;17:168-73

How to cite this URL:
Gharote GM, Kapadia HJ, Yeole UL, Panse RB, Pawar PA, Kulkarni SA. Comparison of core stability in different sportsmen. Saudi J Sports Med [serial online] 2017 [cited 2023 Feb 6];17:168-73. Available from: https://www.sjosm.org/text.asp?2017/17/3/168/215913

  Introduction Top

The core is defined as the basis of proximal stability for distal mobility, and it allows for the transfer of energy from large to small muscles during everyday movements.[1] The core is the mid-section of the body that links the lower extremities to head, neck, and upper extremities through the thorax and lumbopelvic regions.

The core can be described as a muscular box (pertaining to the lumbopelvic region) with the abdominals in the front (anteriorly), paraspinals and gluteals in the back (posteriorly), the diaphragm as the roof (superiorly), and the pelvic floor and hip girdle musculature as the bottom (inferiorly). Within this box are 29 pairs of muscles that help to stabilize the spine, pelvis, and kinetic chain during functional movements. Without these muscles, the spine would become mechanically unstable with compressive forces as little as 90 N, a load much less than the weight of the upper body.[1],[2],[3]

When the system works as it should, the result is proper force distribution and maximum force generation with minimal compressive, translational, or shearing forces at the joints of the kinetic chain.[3],[4] Core is the anatomic and functional powerhouse of the body. All motions are generated from the core and are translated to the extremities the serape effect.[5],[6]

It is believed that a strong core allows an athlete the full transfer of forces generated with the lower extremities, through the torso, and to the upper extremities. A weak core is believed to interrupt the transfer of energy, resulting in reduced sport performance and efficiency and risk of injury to distal limbs or to a weak or underdeveloped muscle group.[7]

As defined by Kibler et al., “core stability” is “the ability to control the position and motion of the trunk over the pelvis to allow optimum production, transfer and control of force and motion to the terminal segment in integrated kinetic chain activities.”[1],[4]

Core stability is a vital aspect of the human body as it not only provides strength and balance but also aids in creating anticipatory postural adjustments, or preprogrammed activation of core muscles, that allow the body to handle perturbations during activities such as kicking, throwing, and running. This demonstrates the importance of the core in decreasing incidences of injury. The purposes of anticipatory postural adjustments within the body are to allow proximal stability with distal movement. Injuries can occur when core stability does not keep the proximal body stable while an individual carries out distal movements or perturbations.[1],[8]

Despite the popularity of conceptualizing core stability, relatively little scientific research has been conducted to compare core stability in different sportsmen. Therefore, the purpose of this review was to critically examine and compare core stability in different sportsmen belonging to the following categories: badminton, cricket (fast bowlers) (which are the overhead athletes), football, sprinters (nonoverhead athletes) and other issues related to this topic to determine useful applications for sport conditioning programs.

  Materials and Methods Top

This study included eighty voluntary participants (twenty badminton players, twenty cricket fast bowlers, twenty football players, twenty sprinters). Study approval was obtained from institutional head before individual recruitment and testing. Healthy volunteers between the ages of 16 and 55 were recruited to participate in the study. To participate, the volunteer must be able to follow directions and to perform the three core tests, which will be described later and should have a minimum of 1 year experience in their respective sport. Exclusion criteria included any athlete who presented with complaints of pain in their lower extremities, low back, or abdominal region. Athletes were also excluded from the study if he/she had any somatosensory disorder that affects balance, lower- and upper-extremity injuries or surgeries that resulted in time loss of physical activity within the past year, current taking of medication that affects one's ability to maintain balance.

Demographic data were obtained from the participants including body mass index, age, years of experience in their respective sport, frequency of sport play, and frequency of aerobic exercises. Descriptive statistics are depicted in [Table 1].
Table 1: Descriptive statistics of players

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Individuals performed a 3-min walk to warm-up. The walk was performed at a comfortable, self-selected pace. After the warm-up, individuals began testing. Core muscle endurance tests developed by McGill was used to assess core stability. These are composed of trunk flexor, back extensor (EXT), and right and left lateral trunk musculature tests. Results from previous studies show that the four trunk isometric muscle endurance tests have excellent reliability coefficients: trunk flexor, intraclass correlation coefficient (ICC) = 0.97, back EXT, ICC = 0.99, and right and left plank test ICC = 0.99.[1],[8]

For each test, the individual was given a verbal explanation of the test, correct and incorrect positions were explained, and a demonstration of the testing position was provided if necessary. The individual was instructed to hold the position for as long as possible without deviating from the test position. Each test was timed using a stopwatch and ended when the individual could no longer hold the test position or deviated from the starting position. No encouragement was provided and also individual's time was not revealed until completion of the three clinical tests to decrease the variable of the participant's motivation or competitiveness. Data were collected and recorded in seconds.

Trunk flexor test

The flexor endurance test begins with the person in a sit-up position with the back resting against an incline angled at 60° from the floor. Both knees and hips are flexed 90°, the arms are folded across the chest with the hands placed on the opposite shoulder, and the feet are secured. To begin, the inclined is pulled back 10 cm, and the person holds the isometric posture as long as possible. The test ended when the upper body fell below the 60° angle.[1],[8]

Trunk extensor test

The back EXT are tested with the subject prone and the upper body beyond the anterior superior iliac spine (ASIS) suspended out over the end of the test bench and with the pelvis, knees, and hips secured till the ASIS. The upper limbs are held across the chest with the hands resting on the opposite shoulders. Failure occurs when the upper body drops below the horizontal position.[1],[8]

Side plank test

The lateral musculature is tested with the person lying in the full side bridge position (e.g., left and right side individually). Legs are extended, and the top foot is placed in front of the lower foot for support. Individuals support themselves on one elbow and on their feet while lifting their hips off the floor to create a straight line from head to toe. The uninvolved arm is held across the chest with the hand placed on the opposite shoulder. Failure occurs when the person loses the straight back posture and/or the hip returns to the ground.[1],[8]

Statistical analysis

One-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) was used to analyze each of the three tests as well as total time. Dependent variables included hold time in seconds for the side plank test, the Biering-Sorensen EXT endurance test, and the 60° flexion test.

  Results Top

ANOVA was significant with P < 0.0001 for the flexion endurance test, P = 0.0030 for the extension endurance test, P = 0.0037 for right plank test, P = 0.0004 for the left plank test, P = 0.0107 for total core endurance hold time. The mean hold times of each sport categories (badminton, cricket fast bowlers, footballers, and sprinters) in individual core endurance tests are depicted in [Table 2]. According to our results, football players had a higher core endurance followed by cricket fast bowlers, sprinters, and badminton players [Graph 1].
Table 2: Mean core endurance test hold time (s) of each sport

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  Discussion Top

There are many ways to examine and test the musculature of the core. In reviewing the literature, testing core endurancehas been found to be more functional than testing core strength.[8]

Following a literature review, 35 tests were identified to evaluate core stability. The 35 tests assess five different components of core stability: strength, endurance, flexibility, motor control, and function. ICCs were calculated to establish intra-rater reliability. There were highly reliable tests in each of the five groups. Overall, core endurance tests were the most reliable measurements, followed by the flexibility, strength, motor control, and functional tests.[8]

Borghuis et al. suggest that only minimal voluntary isometric contractions of trunk musculature are necessary to stabilize the spine, implying that muscular endurancealong with sensory-motor control is of greater importance than strength when considering core stability.[1],[9] Similarly, key states that coactivationand coordinationof the core, rather than strength, create an ideal core.[1],[10] A core lacking muscular endurance consequently possesses poor motor control and therefore has decreased the function of its stabilizing structures. This can lead to slow kinematic response to sudden trunk loading and can result in injury.[1]

Furthermore, a term known as significant stability was introduced, which states that individuals must maintain a significant amount of stability during activities through low yet continuous muscle activation (core endurance) (McGill, Grenier, Kavcic, & Cholewicki, 2003).[1],[2]

This study involved four sport categories and assessed the endurance of core musculature of each category. It is essential to discuss the role of core musculature in the above-mentioned sport. The capability for acceleration is an important factor for the success of football players and sprinters in game situations. Trunk muscles have a critical role in the maintenance of stability and balance when performing movements with the extremities. A strong and stable core provides a solid foundation for the torques generated by the limbs. This should be true for sprint running.[11] For efficient and smooth locomotion, adequate control of the trunk in relation to the movements of extremities is important. Role of the core is to oppose the secondary movement and maintain stability no matter what position the body is in, secondary movements are those than occur as a result of primary movement, for example, Lateral upper body movement of the trunk as a result of arm and leg movements of a sprinters. These secondary movements can sap energy from the athletes leading to athletic inefficiency and since they are not controlled or place unnecessary strain on areas of the body during movement which could potentially lead to injury. Therefore, a solid core will eliminate secondary movement ensuring for optimum energy usage.[11]

Winter and Bishop outlined the major goals associated with sprinting providing an overall outline of its biomechanics. They are (1) shock absorption and control of vertical collapse during any weight acceptance phase; (2) balance and posture control of the upper part of the body; (3) energy generation associated with forward and upward propulsion; and (4) control of direction changes of the center of mass of the body. A strong core efficiently works to achieve the above-mentioned goals. Therefore, one can say a sprinter demands a higher core muscle activity for the above-mentioned reasons to increase his/her athletic efficiency.[12]

Football is a sport which involves short bursts of sprinting and continuous running over a prolonged period, i.e., game time unlike sprinters who sprint over a considerable lower amount of time; therefore, the biomechanics involved in sprinting could also be applied to football. In addition, the game of football involves “Kicking” a ball over short and long distances at variable velocities, which from a biomechanical perspective follows a proximal to the distal pattern of energy transmission and movement production with balance control on one leg while force production in the body is at its peak. Therefore, one could say that football involves a higher workload, in terms of activity involving around the core, as compared to sprint runners.

The other two categories of sportsmen included in this study were cricket fast bowlers and badminton players. Both of which involve overhead activities.

Athletes performing overhead motions require highly skilled movements performed at high velocities. This requires flexibility, muscular strength, coordination, synchronicity, and neuromuscular control at the shoulder complex.[13] To maintain functional stability during limb movement, muscular strength and endurance are required around the lumbar spine. The core musculature becomes active in a feedforward fashion during upper extremity movement. This mechanism occurs as the body prepares for potential perturbation of spinal stability when movement begins. In sport that requires a great degree of overhead skill, the core provides a foundation on which muscles of the upper and lower extremities rely.[13]

An article published by Radwan et al. concluded that overhead athletes with shoulder dysfunction had poor performance in core stability measure thereby significantly correlating shoulder dysfunction and core instability.[13]

There are many examples of proximal core activation providing interactive moments that allow efficient distal segment function. They either provide maximal force at the distal end, similar to the cracking of a whip, or they provide precision and stability to the distal end. Maximum force at the foot segment in kicking is developed by the interactive moment resulting from hip flexion.[4] Maximum shoulder internal rotation force to rotate the arm is developed by the interactive moment developed by trunk rotation.

Twenty-six percent more activation can occur in the ankle as a result of proximal muscle activation. Similarly, a 23%–24% increase in maximal rotator cuff activation occurs when the scapula is stabilized by the trapezius and rhomboid muscles, either in asymptomatic or symptomatic individuals. In addition, the distal muscle activity can be more directed toward precision and control, rather than power generation, when proximal muscle activation is maximum.[4]

One study examined which body parts contributed to forward force in throwing a ball. The results: legs/trunk50%[4],[14] - 51%; scapula/shoulder 13%; elbow 21%; wrist 15%. Thus, the legs and the core trunk muscles are responsible for over half of the velocity when you throw a baseball. Hence, to maximize efficiency in a throwing action, one must train his/her legs and the core muscles. Furthermore, a weakness or an injury to the lower extremities or trunk can cause an overhead athlete to put more stress on the elbow and shoulder to compensate for the deficiency in the core or the legs culminating in an upper extremity injury.[15]

Ferdinands analyzed segmental kinetic energy in cricket bowling. His study showed that bowlers exhibited a general order of proximal to distal sequencing in kinetic energy.[16] The larger and heavier segments, which were the proximal segments (upper trunk, lower trunk, and thigh), had relatively higher segment translation and rotation kinetic energies than the smaller distal segments.[16]

If cricket fast bowling and badminton are to be compared, cricket fast bowling requires a higher workload since cricket fast bowling is to be performed over a sustained amount of time during the matches lasting throughout the day unlike badminton which does not involve that prolonged amount of time play. Furthermore, cricket fast bowling involves some amount of sprinting before ball throw. These reasons explain why cricket fast bowlers have higher core endurance as compared to badminton players.

Based on the above discussions, we know that how crucial the role of core musculature is in the sport included in this study. Based on our results, there were variations with regard to higher core endurance hold times among the four core endurance tests with nonoverhead athletes scoring more than overhead athletes which could be attributed to the fact that core activity is very much intense in a sprinter as compared to an overhead athlete. Furthermore, cricketers and sprinters did not vary much with regard to their hold times (P > 0.0005, not significant) with cricketers having higher hold times than sprinters. Now, one point which needs to be highlighted here is that sprinters had an experience in their sport of 1.8 years (mean) whereas cricket fast bowlers had an experience of 4.91 years (mean). Now, if the level of experience would have been the same then eventually sprinters would score a higher core endurance hold time than cricketers since repetitive activity leads to increased development of musculature.[4]

Moreover, with the extension endurance test, cricket fast bowlers scored significantly higher than footballers, sprinters, and badminton players. Now, on reviewing the literature, core extension endurance does not vary significantly with regard to core exercises, aerobic exercises, level of competition, gender, and strength training.[1] Therefore, cricket fast bowlers scoring high with the extension endurance cannot be attributed to the fact that they had higher experience or involve in certain core exercises. Therefore, such a result could be due to certain testing errors while carrying out the test.

Cowley et al. explain that because of the complex interplay among the core musculature, fully assessing core stability is difficult by utilizing just one test.[1],[17]

Kibler et al. explained that evaluation of specific muscles in the core is difficult because numerous muscles fire in task-specific patterns to provide core strength.[4]

It is believed that the role of core stability in athletic performance may only be known when all aspects of core stability are used in the assessment whereas in this study, only one aspect of core stability is assessed which was core endurance.

Future studies should be conducted for signifying the validity of core endurance tests used in this study, as a predictor of efficient athletic performance. Furthermore, studies should be conducted for validating core endurance tests as a significant predictor for lower extremity injury such as hamstring strain, iliotibial band friction syndrome, and anterior cruciate ligament injury as well as upper extremity injury such as rotator cuff tear, shoulder instability, and elbow injuries.

A well-developed core is vital when the goal is high-level athletic performance as all movements either originate or are coupled through the trunk (Hedrick, 2000). A well-developed core allows for improved force output, increased neuromuscular efficiency, and decreased incidence of overuse injuries. It also enhances an athlete's ability to utilize the musculature of the upper and lower body, which allows for more efficient, accurate, and powerful movements. This is because force is transferred most efficiently through the body in a straight line.[18] A position of balance is a position of power.[6] An athlete with a poorly developed core as well as poor posture will not be able to fully utilize their body's potential power, often wasting energy through jerky, uncoordinated, and extraneous movements. If the lumbar muscular component has not been trained to function optimally, this can lead to weakness and reduced movement capabilities. Over time, this can lead to impaired athletic performance, injury, and pain (Hedrick, 2000). Motion is not an isolated event that occurs in one direction. Body movement is a complex event involving agonist and antagonist structures that work together to create motion and to stabilize the body in all three directional planes. Hence, an athlete's core must be strong, flexible, and unimpeded in its movement to achieve maximum performance (Abelson, 2004).[18],[19] Therefore, core training should be the centerpiece of any rehabilitation program but should not be the only focus of training.

  Conclusion Top

Based on the above discussions, it is concluded that football players have a higher core endurance followed by sprinters, cricket fast bowlers, and badminton players.

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Alexis Anderson, Jessica Hoffman, Brent Johnson, Anna Simonson, Laurel Urquhart, Core Strength Testing : Developing Normative Data for Three Clinical Tests, 2014.  Back to cited text no. 1
McGill S, Grenier S, Kavcic N, Cholewicki J. Coordination of muscle activity to assure stability of the lumbar spine. J Electromyogr Kinesiol 2003;13:353-9.  Back to cited text no. 2
Akuthota V, Ferreiro A, Moore T, Fredericson M. Core stability exercise principles. Curr Sports Med Rep 2008;7:39-44.  Back to cited text no. 3
Kibler WB, Press J, Sciascia A. The role of core stability in athletic function. Sports Med 2006;36:189-98.  Back to cited text no. 4
Santana JC. The serape effect: A kinesiological model of core training. Strength Cond J 2003;25:73-4.  Back to cited text no. 5
Bliss LS, Teeple P. Core stability: The centerpiece of any training program. Curr Sports Med Rep 2005;4:179-83.  Back to cited text no. 6
Willson JD, Ireland ML, Davis IS. Core stability and its relationship to lower extremity function and injury. J Am Acad Orthop Surg 2005;13:316-25.  Back to cited text no. 7
Waldhelm A. Assessment of Core Stabilty: Developing Practical Models; 2011.  Back to cited text no. 8
Borghuis J, Hof AL, Lemmink KA. The importance of sensory-motor control in providing core stability: Implications for measurement and training. Sports Med 2008;38:893-916.  Back to cited text no. 9
Key J. 'The core': Understanding it, and retraining its dysfunction. J Bodyw Mov Ther 2013;17:541-59.  Back to cited text no. 10
Kubo T, Hoshikawa Y, Muramatsu M, Iida T, Komori S, Shibukawa K, et al. Contribution of trunk muscularity on sprint run. Int J Sports Med 2011;32:223-8.  Back to cited text no. 11
Novacheck TF. The biomechanics of running. Gait Posture 1998;7:77-95.  Back to cited text no. 12
Radwan A, Francis J, Green A, Kahl E, Maciurzynski D, Quartulli A, et al. Is there a relation between shoulder dysfunction and core instability? Int J Sports Phys Ther 2014;9:8-13.  Back to cited text no. 13
Kibler WB. Biomechanical analysis of the shoulder during tennis activities. Clin Sports Med 1996;14:79-85.  Back to cited text no. 14
More RC, Pollack ME. The overhead athlete maximizing performance • Preventing Injuries, Hunterdon orthopedic institute, Flemington, New Jersey; 2012.  Back to cited text no. 15
Ferdinands RE. Analysis of segmental kinetic energy in cricket bowling. Procedia Eng 2011;13:246-51.  Back to cited text no. 16
Cowley PM, Fitzgerald S, Sottung K, and Swensen T. Age, weight, and the front abdominal power test as predictors of isokinetic trunk strength and work in young men and women. J Strength Cond Res 2009;23:915-25.  Back to cited text no. 17
Bruce Kevin Hilligan, The Relationship Between Core Stability and Bowling Speed in Asymptomatic Male Indoor Action Cricket Bowlers, M. Tech Dissertation, Durban University of Technology. 2000.  Back to cited text no. 18
Abelson B. 2004. Improving Core Stability with Active Release Techniques. Available from: http://www.drabelson.com/CoreStabilityWeb/CoreStabilityART.ht. [Last accessed of 2007 Nov 01].  Back to cited text no. 19


  [Table 1], [Table 2]


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