What really causes running injuries?
Every year, about half of all runners will experience an injury that will sideline them for at least a few days, if not longer. Running too much, doing too much high-intensity work, not stretching enough or not doing enough strength training have all been touted as potential reasons why a non-contact sport would have such a high injury rate, but is this really the case? Recently, Canadian researchers did a deep dive into injury data and determined that we may know less about injury cause and prevention than we think we do.
The team of researchers included Jean-Francois Esculier, a physiotherapist and medical professor at the University of British Columbia and Chris Napier, Athletics Canada physiotherapist and author of Science of Running. They analyzed data from 36 studies that included a total of 23,047 runners to look for trends in running-related injury research. More specifically, they were looking for associations between injuries and training parameters, such as distance, duration, frequency and intensity, as well as recent changes to those parameters.
Not surprisingly, the researchers found that the three most frequently injured body parts were the knee (25.8 per cent), foot and ankle (24.4 per cent) and lower leg (24.4 per cent). What they didn’t find was a consistent association between any one training parameter and injuries. “Overall, there was conflicting evidence about the association between weekly running distance, duration, frequency, intensity or specific changes in training parameters and the onset of RRIs (running-related injuries),” they said in their conclusions.
What can a runner do?
With no clear-cut culprit behind running injuries, it’s difficult to make any definitive recommendations when it comes to increasing mileage or intensity, changing up your training or even rehabbing or preventing an injury. Even well-accepted rules like “don’t increase your mileage by more than 10 per cent per week” hold less clout when you realize that increasing mileage may not be the reason your knee is sore.
So what is a runner to do? As much as it’s tempting to want to come up with over-arching rules for weekly mileage, training intensity and other parameters, the truth is, running injuries are so highly individual that many runners (half of all us, it seems) are going to fall through the cracks of those broad strokes and end up with an injury at some point.
Until we know more about what leads to injuries, runners need to be constantly listening to their bodies to notice when things don’t feel quite right. When something does start to bother you, don’t ignore it until it becomes a major problem. Back off the intensity and take a few days off if you need to.
If a few days of rest don’t take care of it, make an appointment with a physiotherapist or other sports medicine practitioner, who can help you find the root cause and come up with an action plan to get you back in the game.
posted Monday November 22nd
by Brittany Hambleton