Runners aren't the most injury-prone of athletes, but they're high on the list. Here's a review of the literature telling you what to avoid.
Don't be too upset if you, or one of your athletes, have had a running-related injury during the past 12 months. After all, you're in the majority. Scientific studies show that about 60-65% of all runners are injured during an average year (by definition, an 'injury' is a physical problem severe enough to force a reduction in training).
When compared to many other endurance sports, the risks associated with running are higher. For example, runners miss about 5 to 10% of their scheduled workouts due to injury, while race walkers are absent just over 1% of the time, and step-aerobics participants conk out with a frequency of less than 1% ('Incidence and Severity of Injury Following Aerobic Training Programs Emphasizing Running, Race walking, or Step Aerobics' Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, vol. 25(5), p. S81, 1993).
Still, running is far from being the most injury-producing sport. In a study in the Netherlands, running ranked fourth - behind outdoor soccer, indoor soccer, and volleyball - in the total number of injuries produced per year, and when injuries were expressed per hour of actual activity, running was well down the list - in 14th place (Sportblessures breed Uitgemeten, Haarlem, DeVrieseborch, 1990).
In addition, running's 65-%-injury and 10-%-absence rates could be significantly lower if runners knew more about the actual causes of injuries and made a few simple adjustments in their training schedules. In fact, research suggests that running injuries could be cut by around 25% (Sport for All: Sport Injuries and Their Prevention, Council of Europe, Netherlands Institute of Sports Health Care, Oosterbeek, 1989).
The injury hot spots
We'll explain how to minimize the risk, but before that let's identify where injuries are likely to occur. The five anatomical 'hot spots' for running injuries are:
(1) The knee (25-30% of all injuries to endurance runners occur there);
(2) The calf and shin (20% of all injuries);
(3) The iliotibial band - a long sheath of connective tissue which runs from the outside of the hip down to the lateral edge of the knee (10% - see also SIB issue 7);
(4) The Achilles tendon (8-10% - see also SIB issue 5 ), and
(5) The foot - the focal point for hobbling injuries like plantar fasciitis (10 percent - see also SIB issue 3).
About 25% of running injuries require an actual medical consultation, and 75% of runners who seek medical care report either a 'good' or 'excellent' recovery. Two to 3% of running injuries force runners to miss some time at work (American Journal of Sports Medicine, vol. 16(3), pp. 285-294, 1988). 65% of runners report that they are running pain-free after eight weeks of treatment, and iliotibial band problems (no. 3 from above) appear to require the longest recovery period (South African Medical Journal, vol. 65(8), pp. 291-298, 1984).
~excerpts from www.sportsinjurybulletin.com
article by Owen Anderson