Ask the Expert: Common Running Injuries

June 26, 2020 - Defence Stories


More than 3,000 soldiers participate in a 10 km race as part of the 5th Mechanized Brigade Group of Canada Colonel-Commandant’s Challenge on October 14, 2011, at Garrison Valcartier, QC. Photo: Sgt Jean-Francois Neron, Valcartier Imaging Section © 2011 DND-MDN Canada

Q: I recently started running during this COVID-19 pandemic to improve my fitness, and really enjoy it. Typically, I run about six kilometers three to four times/week. To date, I have been injury free, but my personal trainer told me that running has a high injury rate.  Is this true and what are the most common running injuries? Cautious Carl

A:  Dear Cautious Carl: Running is an amazing sport that is enjoyed by millions of people. However, it is a high impact activity that requires repetitive movements and these two features increase the risk it can cause injuries. The following are injuries commonly experienced by runners:

  1. Achilles tendinopathy – the Achilles tendon connects the calf muscles to the back of the heel. It is pulled on every time a runner pushes their foot off the ground and can become inflamed with overuse.
  2. Plantar fasciitis – the plantar fascia is a shock absorbing structure on the bottom of your foot. It can become irritated by the significant physical load (two-three times your body weight) that occurs every time your foot hits the ground.
  3. Runner’s knee – also known as patellofemoral syndrome (PFS) – results in pain in the region of your knee cap. It is often the result of overuse or abnormal movement of the knee cap.
  4. Iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS) – the iliotibial band is a fibrous structure that runs down the outside of your thigh from your hip to your knee.  It can be aggravated by rubbing across several bony structures during running.
  5. Stress fractures in the lower limb and pelvis – these serious injuries result from bones being subjected to excessive repetitive stress and cause pain in the bones that are affected.
  6. Shin splints – also called medial tibial stress syndrome – is a painful condition that occurs from inflammation in the soft tissues along the front of your lower leg.
  7. Muscle pulls – typically involve the calf and hamstring muscles and occur when small tears develop in muscles that are subjected to forces that are greater than they can currently handle.

All these injuries have one thing in common – they result from body tissues being subjected to more stress than they can handle. This is often the result of runners trying to do too much too soon and increasing the distance or speed they run too quickly. Failing to give your body adequate time to recover between runs can also contribute.

The bottom line: Running is a great way to stay fit, but it does have a relatively high injury rate. Many of these injuries can be avoided by carefully progressing your training, paying attention to discomfort when first develops, and incorporating rest into your training program. If you think you have a running-related injury, consider seeing a sport medicine physician in your community. Train smart and remember “Movement is Medicine!”

Dr. Darrell Menard OMM MD, Dip Sport Med
Dr. Menard is the Surgeon General’s specialist advisor in sports medicine and has worked extensively with athletes from multiple sports. As part of the Strengthening the Forces team he works on injury prevention and promoting active living.

Strengthening the Forces is Canadian Armed Forces/Department of National Defence (CAF/DND)’s healthy lifestyles promotion program providing expert information, skills and tools for promoting and improving CAF members’ health and well-being.

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