How to Prevent Common Running Injuries
From the Potomac River Run to the Marine Corps Marathon, the fall weather inspires runners of all levels to enjoy the outdoors and push themselves with a race. Yet some research studies estimate that every year, up to 90 percent of runners will find themselves sidelined with an injury. We asked Daniel Cuttica, D.O., to share tips on how runners can avoid injuries in the weeks leading up to a big race. Dr. Cuttica is an orthopaedic foot and ankle doctor practicing at The Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle care center in Falls Church, Va.
What are some of the most common running-related foot and ankle injuries you see?
The most common injuries are overuse injuries, which occur mainly from training errors. When runners ramp up their mileage or speed too quickly, it can be too fast for the body to recover from. These injuries can range from plantar fasciitis and tendonitis to stress fractures of the foot or ankle.
What can runners do to prevent these injuries?
The most important thing is to gradually increase your mileage and training before the race. It is recommended to increase the distance you run by just 10 percent each week. You also need to allow time for rest in between runs so your body recovers. Equipment is always important, which means proper shoe wear. Make sure you have a good pair of running shoes that provide enough support.
Finally, stretching and strengthening exercises are key. I think it’s especially important that runners stretch their calves, Achilles tendons and hamstrings to keep their muscles loose and mobile. Strong muscles and tendons give your joints stability, which will limit the stress you experience across your hip, knee and ankle joints. If you’re strong, the muscles don’t fatigue or get overworked as easily, which can lead to overuse injuries.
What should a runner do if they start to feel pain leading up to a big race?
If you start to feel pain as you are running, you have to listen to your body and back off. That’s a sign that there may be an early injury, and if you keep running through it you’re going to turn a minor injury into a much more significant injury with a longer recovery period. Now, you can still keep up with your training regimen by cross-training with the elliptical machine, bike or water running, as well as strength training and stretching. An injury doesn’t mean you have to stop exercising, and these are a few ways that you can maintain your cardio fitness level while still protecting your injury and letting that part of your body heal.
If you experience pain after a run and it lasts more than a few days, or if the pain is severe, then it is necessary to receive proper medical attention from a physician.
Daniel Cuttica, D.O., is a board-certified orthopaedic surgeon specializing in foot and ankle surgery at The Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle care center in Falls Church, VA. Dr. Cuttica has expertise in both common and complex disorders of the foot and ankle, including cartilage disorders and restoration, total ankle replacement, arthroscopy and minimally-invasive procedures and forefoot reconstruction. He serves as an orthopaedic consultant for The Washington Ballet, has authored numerous publications in peer-reviewed journals and is a reviewer for the peer-reviewed journals Foot and Ankle International and Foot and Ankle Specialist.