Injury Prevention for Marathon Runners

Injury Prevention for Marathon Runners – By Meghan Taff, MPT

Physical therapists are all too familiar with the plight of a marathoner. In some cases, MDs who are not runners, will advise patients to cease running in order to heal from their injuries. But this can be crushing to those that have worked so hard to train for and finish a race. As a physical therapist and runner, I feel there has to be a better way!

The statistics are daunting with some research studies showing upwards of 50% of those training for half and full marathons will experience a Running-Related Injury (RRI) during a training cycle (6-12 months). Knee injuries account for most 40%, with lower leg like injuries plantar fasciitis and achilles tendonitis accounting for another 20-25%. 

But what if I told you physical therapy could be used in a more proactive sense and decrease the amount of running injuries that occur every year? A 2018 research study of Dutch Trail Runners showed a 13% reduction in RRI for those in the group that received tailored online injury prevention advice. A 2019 study demonstrated biweekly tailored advice improved RRI prevention knowledge in runners. There are also differences in the types of injuries sustained in male and female runners as well as injuries sustained in different age groups, so receiving personalized advice/training vs a cookie-cutter online program can make a world of difference in injury prevention for both sexes or at any age.

Physical therapy, when done proactively, can be used to identify problem areas before they become an injury (i.e. joint mobility limitations, muscle coordination limitations), as well as prepare the body to withstand the stresses of training for a marathon. Learning soft tissue techniques (foam rolling, trigger point ball release), dynamic warm-up routines, and post-run stretching can make a world of difference in preventing injuries. Even more important is implementing functional, progressive loading of the joints that will help you in both running and in everyday life.

At Netic, our PTs are all runners as well as physical therapists and coaches. We not only work on the body/tissues, but also take into consideration other causal factors as to why we get hurt while running - things like sleep quality, stress, and previous training load. With this holistic approach in mind, we then focus on structuring physical therapy exercises and modifying training loads to promote the best outcomes for our clients.

Here are some examples of 5 exercises that every runner should be doing:

  1. Lower body/Upper body/postural foam rolling
  2. Targeted trigger point ball release to identified problem areas (pecs, gluts, piriformis, iliopsoas)
  3. Targeted joint mobilizations to identified problem areas (hips, ankles, spine)
  4. Running-related muscle activation techniques for glutes, hamstrings and abs
  5. Running-specific warm-up and form drills

Have questions? Schedule your free session today! 

Sources:

  1. https://ijspt.scholasticahq.com/article/25754-the-prevention-and-treatment-of-running-injuries-a-state-of-the-art
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31783257/
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31213161/ 
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33433864/ 

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