Q&A: How to Predict and Prevent Running Injuries
If you find that your training gets sidetracked due to soft tissue injuries like strains, sprains, shin splints, Patellofemoral pain, etc., you’re not alone. The occurrence of injuries among distance runners is high, and serious runners are always looking for insights as to why these injuries occur and how they can be prevented.
It’s important to note that injuries are multifactorial and individual, and the only way to get an accurate sense of what’s causing them and how best to deal with them is to see a physician and/or a physical therapist. However, there are some common factors among runners with high injury rates, as well as proven strategies to prevent them.
Unfortunately, the most predictive factor as to whether or not a runner will be injured is whether they have been injured before. Other things like training volume, training intensity, age, and running history have been shown to be factors, but are less consistent and are variable. What that means is that injury prevention strategies are an important part of your training plan, especially if you’ve dealt with an injury in the past.
There are some strategies that can be powerful tools in avoiding running injuries, which include:
Following a well-planned, periodized training plan appropriate for your level of fitness and years of training
Getting adequate sleep
Eating a high-quality diet
Regular strength training, focusing on single-leg stability.
While more formal research is needed on strength training as an injury prevention tool for runners, it can improve running economy and performance, which makes it a good tool to incorporate into your training program. The amount and progression of weight used should be tailored to the individual.
Certified coaches, clinical exercise physiologists, strength and conditioning coaches, and sports dietitians can all play an important role in keeping you injury-free and performing at your best. Having a qualified specialist on your team makes all the difference in recovering safely, preventing the reoccurrence of injuries, and ultimately reaching your goals.
Staying on Track
Injuries are frustrating to deal with, but a skilled medical professional can often help you manage them while minimizing the loss of progress. Cross-training activities like biking, swimming, or using the elliptical can help maintain your fitness level as you heal. In some instances, if the injury isn’t too severe, it may be appropriate to keep running but at a volume that you can tolerate, and that doesn’t worsen your symptoms.
About the Author
Curtis Wu PT, DPT, OCS, SCS, CSCS is a Clinical Specialist at the HSS Paramus Outpatient Center. He is a Sports Certified Specialist, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, USA Track and Field Level 1 Coach, and Road Runners Club of America Certified Running Coach. He has worked with a variety of orthopedic and sports medicine conditions and has a particular interest in injury prevention, working with the running population, and the foot and ankle complex.