Injury Prevention for Runners

The rate of running injuries is extremely high. On average, 80% of runners have an injury per year. That means the majority of runners experience an injury every year. In most cases, running injuries occur in the lower limb and result from overuse. Soft tissue and stress fracture type injuries are the most commonly reported. Without drowning you in the statistics of running injuries, we (runners) can all agree injuries happen a lot. If this statistic holds true, Ben Franklin’s famous quote: “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” should then be extremely applicable to runners.  Unfortunately it is not. Injury prevention for runners does not seem to work for everyone. In fact, only a small minority of runners are not getting injured.

So Many Injury Prevention Strategies for Runners…Do they Work?

Preventing running injuries is a widely discussed and debated topic, with most experts having a vested interest, typically in the form of monetary gain. Most experts suggest that their prevention technique works best. With all the techniques and suggested protocols available on the web, runners can risk injury in simply trying to find one method that works best. Where then does that leave the healthy runner looking to avoid injury, or the injured runner attempting to prevent re-injury? Using an evidence-based approach may help to educate the runner on studies conducted to address prevention strategies. The highest level of evidence is reported in the form of a systematic review. The authors of a recent systematic Cochrane Review addressed interventions such as stretching, modifying training intensities, using biomechanical shoe insoles, and/or wearing a certain type of shoe (1). They concluded that a lack of studies exists to show that prevention of running injuries can be effective. Now before I receive 1000 responses reassuring me that the above interventions have worked for you, remember that they may not work for others. The challenge is that different runners are just that…different. Therefore any study addressing prevention has to deal with subject uniqueness.

Where does that leave you, the runner attempting to prevent injuries?  Most likely frustrated and still searching for answers. Before you consider a prevention intervention for your own running injuries, I would like to leave you with my own suggestions as I too am part of the majority of runners who have experienced an injury:

  1. Variety is key. Running is an extremely linear sport, meaning you run in one direction the entire time. The body (the hips for example) needs to move in multiple planes. Sports that involve running (short bursts) coupled with multiple directions such as softball, soccer, squash, etc. give your hips the necessary movement they so desire and lack from pounding the pavement in one direction all the time.
  2. Be your own best doctor. If you are a veteran runner then you should be able to sniff out injuries before they occur! Pay attention to what your body is telling you and NEVER run through an injury! Seek care from movement specialists (chiropractors, physiotherapists, etc.) if you feel a tweak or strain before it gets worse.
  3. Remember that running injuries are commonly overuse injuries. Just like spending too much time on the keyboard resulting in carpal tunnel syndrome, running is a repetitive strain and your tissues need to recover. See suggestion 2 above.
  4. You are a unique runner. Seek expert advice but remember what works for one might not work for another.
No Single ‘Best Prevention’ from Running Injuries 

There is no single best technique for the prevention of running injuries. In fact, the most common prevention strategies may work for very few runners. It is important to remember that injuries happen. When they do, try to keep your frustration at a minimum. Educate yourself on how the body moves and the way it responds to injury by consulting with an expert such as a chiropractor. Reassure yourself that running has many positive benefits that far outweigh the risks. Improved cardiovascular functioning and avoiding obesity are just two of the numerous benefits of running. In my opinion running injuries can be managed proactively by becoming more aware of your own body and how it moves.

Works Cited 

1.         Yeung SS, Yeung EW, Gillespie LD. Interventions for preventing lower limb soft-tissue running injuries. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2011Jan.1;7:CD001256–6.