5 Causes of Overuse Injuries in Runners
Treat your body better than your tires!
Like the tire in our featured image, your body will break down after a certain number of miles. However, under the right conditions, our tire may not have worn out as soon or to the degree that it has. We are all aware of the need to rotate our tires, drive in the right conditions, choose better roads, inspect them regularly, keep them properly inflated and of course we are all careful not to hit curbs or run over glass. Unfortunately, rarely do we take the same care or concern for our body. We simply demand that it respond when we need it to. Let us take a look at what kinds of injuries can arise when we simply push our bodies too hard. Finally let us look at what could ultimately lead to the body’s version of the dreaded “flat tire.”
What kinds of injuries can come from overuse?
People love to run and I love to help people who run. The fact is that today, running and sports that incorporate running are being done over longer seasons (year round) and at higher intensities. Combining this with other factors, I am seeing a growing number of athletes who sustain overuse injuries.
These include lower limb and trunk injuries such as:
- achilles tendonitis,
- plantar fasciitis, metatarsalgia, sesamoiditis,
- shin splints,
- iliotibial band syndrome,
- chronic and recurrent hamstring strains,
- hip flexor tendonitis,
- patellofemoral syndrome and chondromalacia,
- hip labral and knee meniscus damage and
- lumbar disc pathologies
These are just a few of the injuries that one can develop as a result of overuse (also known as “repetitive stress injuries”). The purpose of this post is awareness. I would simply like to bring to the athlete’s attention to some of the causes of overuse injuries in an attempt that you might address or adapt your training in a manner that gives you a chance to avoid these issues. Of course, even the most educated and properly trained athlete can develop overuse injuries. After all, one doesn’t achieve certain goals and make significant progress in their chosen sport without a desire to push oneself, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to know why it is happening!
“It is my assertion that knowledge is the key to prevention. Knowing what can cause an injury is the best way to create the right environment to keep it from happening in the first place.”
5 Causes of Overuse Injuries:
- Longer seasons of training without varying the intensity – Properly designed rest periods and use of variable training schedules is a necessity if you wish to avoid overuse injuries. Simply “going hard” is a recipe for a trip to our office. Many runners in the middle frame of their training season forget that the most important aspect of training is to cross it. If you are a runner, get on a bike. If you don’t like the bike then get on the rower or in the pool. Varying the activity can help to ward off overuse injury whilst keeping up both the aerobic and anaerobic demands of the sport one is training for. It may even make you stronger at the very sport you are training for.
- Impact force and shock – For a deeper understanding of how impact force contributes to injury, check out: http://www.sportsinjurybulletin.com/archive/running-injury.html#
- Improper footwear or equipment – choosing the right equipment is essential in all activity and not just sport. Wearing the proper footwear for the activity being played is an important consideration when seeking the cause of an overuse injury. Being aware of the type of footwear but also the amount of wear is key. Worn out running shoes can be as detrimental as wearing the wrong footwear.
- Technique errors – poor form during running can contribute to an overuse injury. One of the key technique errors that we encounter is that many runners just focus on their pace, distance and intensity. Unfortunately, not paying attention to posture and specifically engaging the core muscles while running can contribute to overuse injuries from the feet to the back. The coordination of the muscles around the back and trunk is as important as the strength of them. Keep in mind that just being strong in the glutes and abdominals does not make for a strong “core.” It is very important that the core muscles are working together and are functional. Stay tuned for an article on this topic in the future.
- Pre-existing medical conditions – such as diabetes, foot over-pronation, previous injuries and joint hypermobility can also contribute. In some instances, being aware of your susceptibility to injury is the best you can do. In others, dealing with the underlying medical condition is essential. In either event, arming yourself with the knowledge of how a medical condition can influence your health and fitness is very important.
Be AWARE and RUN with CARE