By Dr David Hughes,Chief Medical Officer
Australian Institute of Sports
Running-induced injuries are common; depending on the population of runners studied and the definition of running related injuries used incidence rates range between 18.2 and 92.4 %, and prevalence rates range between 6.8 to 59 injuries per 1,000 hours of running. The most common injuries sustained by long-distance runners are Achilles tendinopathy, IIliotibial Friction Syndrome (ITBS) and lower leg bone stress injuries including Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome. The identification of risk factors for these injury types in runners remains controversial, with conflicting results published in the literature. Research that examines new approaches to reducing the number of days lost to training through injury or illness and research that examines mechanisms that have the potential to change injury or illness management are a priority for the Australian elite sport sector.
There are a number of systematic reviews of the evidence regarding the cause of running injuries, but unfortunately there is little consensus between the reviews. Some research studies show differences in injury rates when examining variables such as orthotics, absolute running load per week and body mass index. None of these factors however demonstrate a consistent absolute increase in susceptibility to injury, across all studies.
Best running injury evidence:
• Previous injury in the last 12 months predisposes to subsequent injury
• Running more than 6-7 sessions per week increases the risk of Achilles tendon injury
• Running less than 30km/week when preparing for a marathon increases the risk of becoming injured during a marathon event
• Sudden increase in running load predisposes to injury.
To avoid injury:
• Runners should ensure they have recovered from a previous injury before training again. This can decrease the risk of a subsequent injury in the next 12 months.
• Runners should increase load gradually, when preparing for an event; too many kilometres too quickly often leads to injuries.
The AIS is conducting cutting edge research into running injuries, involving the biggest cohort of participants from the Australian running community. To participate please visit www.ausport.gov.au/injurystudy to fill out the survey and potentially be involved in cutting edge genetic research from your own lounge room.