The most frequent runner’s injuries
Did you know that 42% of runner’s injuries occur in the knee? They are followed by the ankle (17%), the inner leg (13%) and the hip (11%). These are the parts of the body most affected by running injuries (*).
Although it is a very complete sport with many benefits for the body and mind, it also carries some associated risks that we must be aware of in order to minimise them: we are referring to the much-feared runners’ injuries. In general they are caused by overuse, since during the sporting activity the joints withstand all the weight of the body.
Below we explain to you what the most frequent runners’ injuries are so you can learn to identify them and, even more importantly, know what you can do to prevent them. Beyond the general precautions, we also show specific measures that reduce the risk of suffering each of the injuries mentioned.
1. Patellofemoral syndrome (runner’s knee)
It is a very common injury in sports with repeated flexion of the knee such as running, so it is also known as runner’s knee. It represents 17% of running injuries (*).
It is a pain around the kneecap, caused by an increase in the tension or imbalance, which produces greater friction with the femur. Sometimes it is difficult to locate the exact point of pain, it is very diffuse, and described as “twinges” and which worsens in the following circumstances: running, on crouching down, climbing or coming down stairs, and on being a lot of time seated.
The causes of patellofemoral syndrome (runner’s knee)
As we mentioned, the factors that may cause this injury can be related to the increase in tension on the knee or due to an incorrect alignment of the kneecap:
- Over-effort (increase of frequency of training, duration, intensity).
- Problems with alignment of the legs between the hips and ankles.
- Muscular imbalance or weakness, especially in the quadriceps.
Prevention of patellofemoral syndrome
To reduce the probabilities of suffering runner’s knee, it is important:
- To always increase the frequency and intensity of training gradually and respecting the rest days.
- To strengthen and stretch the quadriceps, which are the main stabilisers of the kneecap.
- To control your weight, in order to avoid an overload on the knees.
- Use insoles that can help align and stabilise the foot and ankle, alleviating the tension that the joints suffer.
2. Band syndrome (iliotibial band syndrome)
It originates from the inflammation and irritation of the iliotibial band: a strip of tissue that goes from the buttock to the shinbone (tibia), passing by the outer part of the muscle, and which enables us to straighten the knee and maintain stability. It represents 8% of runners’ injuries (*) and is a complaint particularly common in long-distance runners.
It is also known as the friction syndrome of the iliotibial band, causes pain in the outer part of the knee, which gradually increases with exercise. It is possible that, on stopping, the pain vanishes. However, if you continue running the pain can worsen and start even before the race, just by walking or climbing stairs. On the other hand, we should point out that the pain increases with slopes and when we drop the pace of our running since that increases the time of contact of the iliotibial band with the epicondyle.
The causes of band syndrome (iliotibial band)
It is an injury caused by overuse, due to the repeated rubbing of the muscle bone. That are different factors that condition its appearance:
- Bad running technique.
- Poor stability in the pelvis.
- Tension in the band due to Genu Varum, runners with curved legs, which causes the band to be in tension.
- Little flexibility in the muscles of the lower limbs.
- Running on irregular terrain, which makes one leg work more than the other.
- Running long distances or with slopes.
Prevention of band syndrome (iliotibial band)
Taking into account the above explanation, the best measures for preventing the appearance of band syndrome are:
- Running with a shorter stride but with more cadence.
- Avoiding crossing the feet while you run, they should be parallel to each other.
- Strengthening the abductors of the hip.
- Doing exercises to stretch the band.
- Avoiding slopes. Especially downwards.
3. Plantar fasciitis
This is the inflammation of the tissue that connects the heel bone with the arch and toes. The origin is not usually in a specific traumatism but in repetitive micro-traumatisms due to routine work or sport. It represents 8% of injuries to runners (*) and may also affect sedentary people who spend a lot of time standing.
In this injury, the runner experiences sharp pain in the inner part of the heel and sole of the foot when making the stride. The bother is usually more intense in the morning (due to stiffness during the night) and on doing exercises that require a greater charge on this area.
It is important to start taking measures when the first symptoms appear since it is highly probable that if we continue with our regular routine the fasciitis becomes more acute and may become very limiting.
The inflammation, which is what causes us the pain, can be treated in different ways but the most important thing is to deal with the cause of the problem and ensure that the tension produced in this part decreases in order not to suffer a relapse when returning to our regular physical activity.
The causes of plantar fasciitis
There are diverse factors that increase the risk of suffering a plantar fasciitis, although biomechanical causes are the most common:
- Bad running technique.
- Flat or excessively arched feet (high instep).
- Deficient attachment of the plantar arch or heel.
- Excess of load on the foot (overtraining, overweight…).
- Weakness in the foot muscles.
Prevention of plantar fasciitis
You don’t need to wait to feel pain to take preventive measures. To prevent fasciitis plantar we recommend:
- Modifying the spread of forces with the use of insoles to relax the area of the fascia, whether in sporting activities or for everyday use.
- Training the specific muscle of the ankle and foot, and improving the mobility of this area.
- Specific stretching of the foot muscle and of the Achilles heel.
- Controlling overweight.
- Avoiding overtraining (running according to your physical conditions and resting between training).
- Using suitable footwear.
4. Injuries of the meniscus
We have two menisci on each knee, fibrocartilages in the form of a C that help stabilise the knee joint and act as absorber, absorbing the impact of the knocking between the femur and tibia.
The injury of the menisci is one of the most common knee injuries, especially in activities in which the knee turns with force: it represents 5% of injuries in runners (*). It causes pain (especially in the torsion or rotation of the knee), swelling and stiffness, with difficulty in stretching the knee fully.
The causes of injuries of meniscus
The causes are very varied and mainly depend on the age and state of health of the person affected:
- Degenerative: on ageing the menisci dry and can easily break.
- Traumatic: from a blow, violent rotation of the knee or sudden hyper-extension.
- Mechanical: due to poor functioning of the knee.
Prevention of injuries of meniscus
The injuries of meniscus are usually of an unforeseen and accidental nature, which makes it difficult to predict their appearance. Nevertheless, we can indeed take into account a series of precautions to reduce the risk of injury:
- Strengthen the muscles, especially the quadriceps, to alleviate the load on the menisci.
- Use insoles and sports footwear which helps us provide greater stability to the legs.
- Improve the technique of the stride and run avoiding brusque movements and sudden turns of the knee.
- Always devote a few minutes to warming up in order to avoid joint and meniscus injuries.
5. Shin splints
This is the inflammation of the tissue membrane that covers the bone and usually occurs on the tibia, with pain in the inner face of the sin. The people most frequently affected by this injury are runners and particularly sprinters. Shin splints represent 5% of injuries in runners (*).
The pain can begin after a traumatism or sporting overload. It generally begins with a low intensity bother and gradually increases. The pain is accentuated on pressing on the inflamed area and improves in rest.
The causes of shin splints
Shin splints may have their origin in the following circumstances:
- Muscular weakness.
- Over-effort, brusque changes in the intensity of the exercise.
- Biomechanical defects and other load defects.
- Unsuitable footwear.
- Not much muscular treatment.
Prevention of shin splints
To reduce the possibilities of suffering shin splints, we recommend:
- Strengthening the muscles, with specific exercises in the gym.
- Plan your training properly and avoid brusque changes in the length and intensity of running.
- Use insoles and suitable footwear to favour absorption and stability.
- Do stretching exercises.
(*) Data taken from the study A retrospective case-control analysis of 2002 running injuries. Allan McGavin Sports Medicine Centre (AMSMC) at the University of British Columbia