Injured Runner? We Can Help!

Have you had a running related injury? Did you know runners with a history of an injury are twice as likely to sustain a running related injury compared to runners with no history of injury? A recent study in the Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy followed a group of runners for 1 year. All running related injuries that resulted in missed time running or medical consultation were recorded. Runners who had a history of previous injury were twice as likely to sustain a running-related injury. The most common injuries were to the Achilles tendon/calf and knee.

Many injuries are due to training errors (doing too much too soon or not allowing enough recovery time in between runs) and will heal with activity modification and the passage of time.  There can be other reasons why a runner who has had an injury is more likely to get injured in the future. One factor to consider is muscles around the injury shut down or stop working anytime there is an injury. That is one way your brain tries to protect you. Your brain turns off muscles that work automatically when you run. This is your brain’s effort trying to prevent you from running and hurting yourself more. The problem is those muscles do not always turn back on automatically when the injured tissue heals. This can lead to injury in the future. Oftentimes, runners may not notice a significant difference in strength unless it is specifically evaluated.

Another reason for injury recurrence can be poor running technique. Many runners are heel strikers landing first on their heel when they run. Landing on your heel compared to your forefoot increases the stress on your joints. Heavily cushioned running shoes make this problem worse. Studies show runners hit the ground with greater impact when they wear more cushioned running shoes. A midfoot strike shifts more of the load to your muscles and tendons which are much better equipped to manage the impact forces of running…assuming you do the necessary work to maintain both your muscle strength and tendon strength. Yes, you can strengthen your tendons and similar tissue such as the plantar fascia. If you have a tendon injury or plantar fasciitis, it may get better with rest. However, if you don’t do the exercises to strengthen that tissue you are more likely to get injured in the future.

If you are an injured runner, the good news is your injury will heal. However, if you want to be injury free in the future, it’s important to know why you got injured in the first place. Your physical therapist can help figure out why you got injured and give you the tools to prevent injuries in the future.

Dr. Terry Gebhardt is a physical therapist at Colorado In Motion

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