To determine the volume and degree of asymmetry of iliopsoas (IL) and gluteal muscles (GL) in tennis and soccer players.
IL and GL volumes were determined using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in male professional tennis (TP) and soccer players (SP), and in non-active control subjects (CG) (n = 8, 15 and 6, respectively).
The dominant and non-dominant IL were hypertrophied in TP (24 and 36%, respectively, P<0.05) and SP (32 and 35%, respectively, P<0.05). In TP the asymmetric hypertrophy of IL (13% greater volume in the non-dominant than in the dominant IL, P<0.01) reversed the side-to-side relationship observed in CG (4% greater volume in the dominant than in the contralateral IL, P<0.01), whilst soccer players had similar volumes in both sides (P = 0.87). The degree of side-to-side asymmetry decreased linearly from the first lumbar disc to the pubic symphysis in TP (r = −0.97, P<0.001), SP (r = −0.85, P<0.01) and CG (r = −0.76, P<0.05). The slope of the relationship was lower in SP due to a greater hypertrophy of the proximal segments of the dominant IL. Soccer and CG had similar GL volumes in both sides (P = 0.11 and P = 0.19, for the dominant and contralateral GL, respectively). GL was asymmetrically hypertrophied in TP. The non-dominant GL volume was 20% greater in TP than in CG (P<0.05), whilst TP and CG had similar dominant GL volumes (P = 0.14).
Tennis elicits an asymmetric hypertrophy of IL and reverses the normal dominant-to-non-dominant balance observed in non-active controls, while soccer is associated to a symmetric hypertrophy of IL. Gluteal muscles are asymmetrically hypertrophied in TP, while SP display a similar size to that observed in controls. It remains to be determined whether the different patterns of IL and GL hypertrophy may influence the risk of injury.