Avoiding Running Injuries: Lower Extremities

As our focus shifts to outdoor training activities with the nicer weather, running becomes a popular option to positively influence a person’s fitness, assisting in the reduction or control of body weight and reducing many chronic health issues. However, running can potentially cause injuries, specifically relating to the lower extremities (van Gent et al. 2007). In a review of 17 studies the incidence of lower extremity injuries ranged from 19.4% to 79.3% of all running related injuries.

The most predominant site for this type of injury was the knee, with up to 50% incidence rate, significantly higher than other specific sites; foot and toes (5.7% - 39.3%); hamstring, thigh & quadriceps (3.4% - 38.1%); Shin, Achilles, calf & heel (9% - 32%). These studies in total reported on implications for age, sex, training distances, training frequency, surfaces, experience of the runner and footwear. The research provided some interesting and conflicting findings, particularly in relation to this type of injury and age. A number of the studies showed an increase in risk with age for quadriceps injuries and a decrease for calf injuries, stating that for calf injuries an increase in running distance may be viewed as a protective factor.

The review by van Gent (2007) reported that a 12 month running program without scheduled program breaks is a significant factor in increased incidence of lower extremity injuries. Factors that need to be taken into account when undertaking a running program as a part of your overall fitness regime are; increase frequency, scheduled recovery, surfaces, increased distance, starting at levels suitable for your experience (total km’s), footwear age and condition.

The major determinant for injury in runners is a history of previous injury and this greatly increases the risk of more injuries. Training distance is a modifiable factor and evidence suggests that exceeding 64km per week increases the injury risk. Therefore monitoring your distances and being aware of total weekly kilometres allows you to adjust your program and recovery accordingly.

What does this mean for you as a runner? If you have had previous injuries extra attention should be paid to the signs of injury and undertaking early preventative action to allow adequate time for recovery. The evidence states that 50-75% of all running injuries are musculoskeletal and overuse related and these injuries usually commence with pain and stiffness, so these are the warning signs that you need to take into account. Ensure that you warm up prior to commencing your workout, look at the options for running on more forgiving surfaces or at least mix up the routes, ensure you have well fitted appropriate footwear and ease yourself into your program. Utilising our treadmills and elliptical trainers at ANU Sport intermittently into your program will also assist in reducing the impact on your lower body, without compromising the total distances you have set as graduated goals.

It is important to start into the routine in a structured and graduated manner with moderate increases for your body to adapt to increasing demands, schedule recovery time and be vigilant looking for the signs of potential injury and implement interventions.

Should you require any advice on your training needs in general please come and see us at the ANU Sport.