There are so many running injury myths it was hard to pick a top 5 – but here are my favourite (or should that be worst?)
Running Injury Myth #5: Stretching before a run reduces injury risk
Nope. At least not the static type of stretching that most of us perform. In fact static stretching prior to a run isn’t recommended any more. It probably won’t hurt, but your time would be much better spent performing some dynamic drills like walking lunges and leg swings which more effectively prepare your body for exercise and have been linked to reduced injury rates.
Running Injury Myth #4: Runners don’t need to strength train
WRONG! Well, actually we don’t need to strength train to be able to run. But we do need to strength train to be able to run quicker, further and with a lower risk of injury! Strength training helps to condition our muscles and ensures we are strong in all planes of motion, not just the sagittal plane, forwards motion we use when running. Strength training in lateral and rotational movements helps maintain good alignment throughout the gait cycle, as well as building muscle endurance and increasing our lactate thresholds – meaning we can run (maintaining this better form) for longer.
Running Injury Myth #3: Glucosamine Sulphate protects your cartilage
Clients tell me on a regular basis, usually with a very proud look on their faces that they take Glucosamine Sulphate supplements everyday to help protect their cartilage. This one doesn’t just apply to runners, but regardless who says it – research disagrees.
Research has shown that Glucosamine has no beneficial effects on cartilage repair or growth or…anything, compared to a placebo substance. Sorry guys – you’re just wasting your money! You can read an abstract here.
Running Injury Myth #2: Barefoot is Best
Barefoot running has been popularised over the last decade by the media and certain fanatics. Don’t get me wrong, it can be fantastic and certainly has its advantages. But it’s not for everyone.
Research has shown that barefoot running (and so not landing with a heel strike) does not dramatically reduce running injury rates (Here’s just one study for you). It just changes the type of injury a runner may sustain! Running barefoot changes our landing from a heel strike to a mid or even forefoot strike. This alters the biomechanics of the whole lower limb. Whilst yes it does reduce the stress on the knees and so may help those with conditions such as patellofemoral pain or IT band syndrome, it actually increases stress on the calf and achilles – resulting in more cases of Achilles tendinopathy.
My opinion is “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”
Running Injury Myth #1: Running is bad for you
My number 1 biggest myth surrounding running and running injuries is that “running is bad for you!”
This one is usually touted by complete non-runners, and in many cases non-exercisers full stop. And whilst most of us know it is a load of old codswallop, I think what people are getting at is the potential for injury and those very rare cases of sudden cardiac death syndrome.
As for the injury rate, it’s not that high really compared to a lot of other sports, especially those with a contact (or potential impact) element such as Rugby, Football or Hockey. Runners on average sustain 5 injuries per 1000 hours of training. Whilst this a little more than the rate of 2.9 per 1000 sustained in soccer training, it pales in comparison to the rate of injuries sustained during matches – a massive 35.3 per 1000 hours! And after all – who trains without playing matches?! (Here are the links to see for yourselves: Soccer / Running)
Runners may be prone to overuse injuries, but they don’t tend to be the type which then affect your working life as incidences of traumatic injuries such as fractures and sprains are generally low. The old adage that “Running is bad for your knees” is covered in another blog post – click the link for evidence to the contrary.
As far those very sad but very rare cases of SCDS reported during or after big events, these are by no means a reason for anybody not to run! In many cases an underlying undiagnosed heart condition is the cause. In others it may be extreme heat or dehydration which play a part. But for the millions of people around the globe than run, the numbers who die doing so are miniscule. The benefits to your fitness and general health far outweigh such a tiny risk. You’ve got way more chance of being killed in a car crash (1-in-100)….or even a plane crash…no scrap that – by being struck by lightning (1-in-84,000) than dying whilst running (1-in-100,000 under 35 years of age).
So there you have it! My top 5 running injury myths. If you have a favourite I’ve missed – post it as a comment below!