What Are The Leading Causes of Injuries in Runners and How to Avoid Them

Injuries in runners are very common. In fact, research has suggested that 50% of runners experience a running-related injury every year! During my many years of running, I have experience a variety of injuries including: plantar fasciitis, IT band syndrome, patellofemoral syndrome (knee pain), and shin splints. However, I have learned how to minimize the risk of reoccurrence of these injuries and to minimize the development of other injuries.

There are several common risk factors that increase our chances of developing running-related injuries. In this article I will discuss a few of these and steps that you can take to address these to minimize your risk of future injury.

First, I want to mention the two most common risk factors for the development of running-related injuries. The first is a previous injury. Although, I have not discussed this yet the year (and really should have done so!), if you currently have an injury you need to address it before you get too far into your training to achieve this year’s goals. This may involve seeing your chiropractor, physical therapist, physician, massage therapist, acupuncturist, etc. This is a really important step! If you haven’t remedied an injury that you already have, this will negatively impact your training, and you could make your injury worse, which could put your training on hold for an extended period of time. Also, you may compensate for this injury and develop another injury.

The other most common risk factor for the development of injury is excessive mileage or increasing the volume of your training too quickly, such as increasing the intensity or number of intervals. Therefore, you must have a solid plan that will progressively and properly train your body’s systems to reach your goals. This plan needs to incorporate adequate recovery and recovery weeks. There can be lots of confusion as to what the proper plan should be. There are lots of training plans available online, in books, magazines, etc. These plans may work well for someone else, but may not be best for you. Therefore, I recommend consulting with an expert who can develop a proper training program specific for you.

Another risk factor for the development of injuries is improper or worn shoes. Boy, have I learned this one the hard way! Several years ago I decided to buy a pair of running shoes that were on sale and ordered them online. I got these shoes at a bargain price, but in the long run paid more because of my physical therapy bills to treat the plantar fasciitis that I developed. Now, I’m not necessarily saying the shoes caused the development of plantar fasciitis, but I believe they contributed. As a result of developing plantar fasciitis in both feet, I couldn’t run for nine months and missed out on the Boston Marathon that I had qualified for. However, through my experience I learned a lot about injury prevention, which I pass along to other runners, including you. So, make sure that you are replacing your worn running shoes. When you replace them make sure that you do so with shoes that are right for you. I discussed this in my last article.

Some other risk factors for the development of running-related injuries include muscle weaknesses and imbalances and improper running mechanics. Imbalances in muscular strength and flexibility issues can cause stress to underlying tissues, affecting alignment, and interfere with proper running mechanics and form. Some common issues can be tightness in the hip flexors (due to sitting for extended periods of time, such as at work), hamstrings, and the Achilles tendon. These can cause a shorter stride or briefer-than-normal foot strike. Another common issue is weakness of the hip abductors (glutes). These can all increase the risk of development of IT band syndrome, plantar fasciitis, and patellofemoral syndrome. Strengthening the hip abductors and increasing the flexibility of hip flexors, hamstrings, and the Achilles tendon can resolve these injuries and reduce the chances of future injury.

For those of you living in Colorado, to help you minimize the risk of injuries from muscle weaknesses/imbalances and improper running mechanics, I offer a stride analysis along with tests for muscle weaknesses/imbalances and flexibility issues. If you have muscle weaknesses/imbalances and flexibility issues, I will prescribe exercises to address these issues. I will offer this analysis at a discounted rate for the rest of March and all of April. This discount also applies for those who would like to be reassessed (I offer reassessments at a reduced rate compared with initial assessment).

Please pass this along to anyone you feel might benefit. Also, please contact me at brian@denverrunningcoach.com with any questions or comments that you have.

Happy training!


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