Steps to Take to Prevent Running Injuries

For Tribune Newspapers

Running puts an enormous amount of pressure and strain on the body and can often lead to injury, says Dr. Brian Polsky, a sports medicine specialist and orthopedic surgeon at St. Agnes Hospital. Sixty percent of runners experience an injury severe enough to sideline them, he says. With marathon season here - the Baltimore Marathon takes place Oct. 10 - Polsky outlines a few steps runners of all abilities can take in order to prevent running injuries.

Maintain flexibility and strength Both strength training and flexibility exercises should be components of a runner's weekly workout. Building muscle strengthens muscle fibers, which helps to prevent pulls and tears, acting as a defense against injuries. As muscle mass increases, there is more support to the joints commonly injured by the impact of running. Flexibility is defined as a person's ability to bend his joints; it is part of maintaining the body in a functional condition. Increased flexibility will help with the mobility of joints and the elasticity of tendons and ligaments, which are important in preventing injury.

Have an adequate warm up and cool down regime Stretching should be done both before and after a run. It is important before a run to increase blood flow to the muscles and after to remove lactic acid from the muscles, which will reduce muscle soreness and promote better flexibility. A proper warmup should consist of 10 to 15 minutes of dynamic stretching exercises to reduce muscle stiffness and 10 minutes of light jogging or walking. The cool down should consist of five to 10 minutes of jogging or walking to decrease the body temperature and remove waste products from the working muscles, as well as five to 10 minutes of static stretching exercises.

Always wear appropriate running shoes Running shoes are the only protective equipment runners have to safeguard them from injury. For this reason, selecting the proper shoe is extremely important. Getting new shoes every 300 miles or three months and selecting shoes that match your foot type and weight and that address foot pronation or supination will help minimize the chance of injury.

Don't overdo it Running injuries are not usually caused by a single, obvious traumatic event, but by a variety of factors that over time lead to chronic problems. Overuse running injuries are due to abnormal force being applied repeatedly over a prolonged period of time. To avoid overuse injuries, do not increase running mileage or time too quickly, avoid overtraining, and allow enough rest and recovery time between runs.

Recognize when to seek medical help If an injury causes severe pain, swelling, or numbness, you cannot tolerate weight on the injured area, or an old injury reoccurs, you should seek medical treatment to keep the injury from worsening.

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