Research indicates that 23-85% of runners will experience a running related injury through out their life. Most of these injuries are what we refer to as overuse musculoskeletal injuries of the lower limb.
With such a high injury rate in runners, the big question is how we can reduce these numbers and prevent running injuries?
The THREE key areas in reducing running related injury are:
1) Training load management
2) Addressing biomechanical contributing factors
3) Improving running efficiency
The MOST common running injuries in runners are:
- Medial tibial stress syndrome (shin splints)
- Plantar fasciopathy (or fasciitis)
- Tendinopathy (Achilles and Patella)
- Bone stress reactions or fractures (metatarsals, shins, sesamoids)
- Patella femoral pain syndrome (runners knee)
- Get your training loads rght: Unfortunately the risk of running related injuries will always be present for runners. Running causes a physiological and pathological adaption where by the body responds to loads placed upon it. This leads to increased strength and an improved training effect. If however, the loads placed on body, are too excessive or the athlete does not allow for sufficient rest, overuse injuries can develop.
A graduated training program designed to suit the athlete’s current ability and training history is paramount to reduce the chance of over use injury. Seek advice from a professional in order to get your loading correct.
2. Improved mechanics: Other than training loads there are typically underlying intrinsic, anatomical or biomechanical factors that can increase the loading on a specific structure (joint, tendon etc.) which can subsequently result in an over use injury. These can include yet not limited to the following:
- Reduced ankle range of motion
- Reduced hip extension
- Poor knee flexion (stiff knee)
- Poor pelvic & gluteal control (pelvic drop)
- Muscle weakness, tightness & imbalance
- Over pronation or poor re supination of the foot
- Poorly supportive footwear
Early identification & correction of these underlying factors can drastically reduce the runner’s chance of injury. See you Physiotherapist of assessment in these areas.
3) Improving your running efficiency : Gait re training to reduce running related injuries is currently a hot topic of debate in the Physiotherapy world. Research has shown that altering certain running parameters with gait re education can induce a reduction in injury occurrence & pain. Some cues used to improve efficacy and decrease the ground reaction forces in running are:
- Increase cadence or step rate
- Increased knee drive
- Running tall
This will lead to a reduced stride length resulting in a decrease in the ground reaction forces on heel strike, therefore improving your economy. Seek professional advice before attempting to alter your running technique.
Addressing these three key areas will key give you the best opportunity to run pain free, improve your performance and to simply enjoy running.
Good luck with your running.