Is it possible to reduce your injury risk?
Everyone has an opinion on what may or may not reduce your risk of injury in running and with so much advice and information out there it is hard to know what is useful or even where to start. Should you stretch before or after a run? Is it necessary to do any strength and conditioning? Does moving a certain way increase your risk of injury?
A large proportion of what we are told is passed down through time and accepted as fact, even though it has never been scientifically proven as an effective preventative tool. But with so much research in the field of injury prevention in sport it is not that difficult to pick out a few gems that have a good amount of evidence behind them and could actually prove effective in reducing your injury risk. Let us go through the advice mentioned above as a starting point.
Stretching is a contentious issue and an approach that has been investigated time and time again to try and establish a link between regular stretching and a reduction in injury rate. Unfortunately, time and time again that link has never been found. It is safe to say that static stretching before a run will not reduce your injury risk in that run and you could go even further to say that it may even impair your performance by reducing your muscles maximal force output. Ballistic stretching may have a role as a pre-run warm up but has not been proven to reduce your injury risk either. I am not saying don’t stretch, I am saying be clear that stretching is not the most effective way to safeguard against injury.
2. Strength and Conditioning
Incorporating a well planned strength training routine into your programme is by far and away one the most useful things that you can do as a runner to reduce your injury risk. A review by Lauerson et al (2013) studied different exercise interventions and their effect on reducing sports injuries on a sample of 26,610 athletes and found strength training was the clear winner. The addition of strength training into a training programme reduced an athlete’s Injury risk by 50%!! That is huge and requires only 2 x sessions per week to be effective.
3. Training Volume
Simply put the more times you run per week, the greater your injury risk. Those that run 6 x per week have an increased injury risk of over 500% compared to those that run 3 x per week. This cannot be ignored, especially as most running injuries are overuse injuries. It is ok to train more but replace some running with cross training such as swimming or cycling or better still a well planned strength training routine.
4. The way you move
Over recent years, more and more research is linking certain movement patterns with an increase in injury rate, particularly in knee injuries. The way you squat, squat on 1 x leg or hop could inform you before you get injured that you are actually at an increased risk. If your knees turn in when you squat on 1 x leg for example you are more likely to suffer with anterior knee pain or ITB syndrome and if they turn in when you hop you are more likely to damage your anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). These tests appear to be particularly relevant for female runners who incur knee injuries at a rate of 4:1 when compared to males. These movement dysfunctions can be present for a variety of reasons. The safest way to identify if you are moving in this way and what the underlying reasons are is to book in with a Physiotherapist or health professional with a special interest in functional movement screening for an assessment. A personalised exercise programme is usually enough to correct this and as such reduce your injury risk.
About the Author: Glen is the Clinical Director of Hemel Physio, a Musculoskeletal and Sports Injury Physiotherapy Clinic based in Hertfordshire. As well as treating a large amount of endurance runners Glen also teaches Injury Prevention and functional movement screening courses around the country. To find out more or to book an assessment go to www.hemelphysio.co.uk.