Hip to be Cool

Preventing running injuries.

As the seasons shift and we move from gliding across the mountains to pounding across the mountains, it’s important to review the principles of running-injury prevention. If you’re a runner, you’ve likely sustained a running-related injury. Running injuries are classified as overuse injuries, or injuries that develop gradually over time. They can be as minor as knee pain that limits your performance, or as severe as a stress fracture that ends your season. While there’s a genetic predisposition to developing some injuries, most have preventable underlying causes. The three main preventable factors for running injuries are training errors, body mass index (BMI), and weakness. It’s important to realize that the greatest predictor of sustaining a future running-related injury is having an injury history. So review the risk factors below to see if any of them apply to you, and make the proper adjustments to keep your running season injury-free.

Training Errors
An underlying training error is almost always one of the factors contributing to the development of a running-related injury. Historically, training errors have always been attributed to increasing mileage too quickly. However, recent research shows that runners who run less than two hours less than twice a week are also more likely to get injured. Based on recent studies, to prevent injury you want to run more, not farther. Increase your mileage by 30% a week, keep your mileage less than 40 miles a week, and include at least two rest days per week. A great way to prevent a training error is to join a local running group such as the Big Sky Wind Drinkers or Run Bozeman. 

Body Mass Index (BMI)
Being either overweight (BMI over 25%) or underweight (BMI under 18.5%) can increase your risk for a running-related injury. Calculate your BMI by taking your weight (in kilograms) divided by your height (in meters) squared, or use an online calculator. If you fall in either the overweight or underweight categories make the appropriate dietary changes by consulting a registered dietician. 

The knee is the most common site for a running injury, accounting for almost half of all injuries. Hip weakness, specifically hip abduction and hip external-rotation weakness, has been shown to be an underlying cause in the development of running-related knee pain. Hip weakness can also be an underlying factor in Achilles tendonitis. If you’re not already incorporating hip strengthening as part of your training, do it now. Exercises such as clamshells, abductor leg lifts, and band walks are a good place to start. Or if you want more guidance, visit a physical therapist.

Jason Lunden is a physical therapist at Excel Physical Therapy in Bozeman. For more information on injury prevention, check out his blog at excelptmt.com.