The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

Five Facts You Didn’t Know About Overuse Injury Prevention

Posted by on Wednesday, November 29th, 2017

Overuse injuries may seem like par for the course when you’re a competitive athlete or avid runner. After all, Harvard Medical School looked at many factors—such as stretching, training frequency, weight, biomechanics, and muscle imbalances—and found that up to 75 percent of runners are injured in a given year. Their findings confirm the importance of overuse injury prevention for athletes. Today, White Plains podiatrists at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine share some key facts about overuse injuries that will help you avoid them.

prevent overuse injuries
Running is great for you, but be careful to prevent overuse injuries! Image Source: Unsplash user Francesco Gallarotti.

1. Overuse Injuries Aren’t Caused by Over-Training

Previously, it was thought that the runners and athletes who trained the most would end up with overuse injuries. However, studies have not consistently confirmed that theory. What we do know is that many of the injuries we treat are sustained by people with inconsistent training schedules. They may spend the majority of their time at a desk or have long commutes every day. They may not have time for workouts during the week, so they push themselves extra hard on the weekends. Some weeks they may train every day; other weeks they can’t find the time.

The groups with the least number of overuse injuries, on the other hand, train steadily and never increase duration or intensity by more than 10% from week to week. “The body adapts to our lifestyle, but it’s important to incorporate many different movements into every day,” explains White Plains sports medicine specialist Dr. Josef J. Geldwert, DPM. “We tell people to always be moving. Even if you work a desk job, find an excuse to move at least every 15 minutes—stand, walk, squat, lunge, bend, stretch. It’s not movement that kills us. It’s being sedentary.”

2. Training with Weights is Critical

Some athletes weight train between seasons but end their routines in favor of speed workouts when preparing for a competition. They worry that weight training will result in sore, worn-out muscles that cannot compete. However, a 2015 study found that elite cyclists who stopped weightlifting in the first eight weeks of the competition period suffered declines in performance.

At our White Plains running injury clinic, we can treat 90 percent of injuries through a strength routine that builds flexibility and muscle. If you’re worried about weight training interfering with a competition, scale back 72 hours before the race to allow for recovery. Decrease the reps and sets, but focus on form. Total body training that targets the glutes, hamstrings, lower back, and quads is important for treating and preventing sports injuries, particularly in the knee, hip, Achilles, and IT band.

3. Gait Analysis is a Huge Help

The Harvard study found the most significant difference between the most injured and the never-injured is something called “vertical average loading rate.” This measurement looks at the suddenness of impact. There is only a 50-millisecond difference in contact with the ground during a typical running stride, but when repeated over thousands of steps, that seemingly small amount of time makes all the difference in the world. Researchers say the best marathon runners glide across the ground “like an insect over water,” whereas the most injured runners plod along like stomping elephants.

“Believe it or not, anyone can learn to run differently,” says Dr. Geldwert. “Our gait analysis center in White Plains measures key factors to predict when and where overuse injuries will occur if no intervention is taken. From there, we re-train runners to move lighter on their feet, land softly on the forefeet, and to keep body positioning more relaxed. We show runners how to use muscle groups they tend to ignore—like the calf muscles, for instance—which, if not engaged, leads to Achilles problems 100 percent of the time.” Using gait analysis is one of the best ways to identify problems and prevent them from causing injury.

4. Recovery Shouldn’t be Passive

You may think of a “recovery day” as a lazy day where exercising simply isn’t on your radar. Instead, schedule an activity that lasts the same amount of time you normally use for intensity training. Just make it a low-intensity activity like walking, recreational biking, swimming, stretching, or yoga. You want to restore your muscles without going dormant and becoming stiff. If you’ve become injured, rather than backing off from exercise entirely, work with a physical therapist or orthopedic specialist to help you correct the biomechanical issues that caused the injury. Otherwise, you will be more likely to sustain the same type of injury once you return from inactivity.

5. Low-Calorie Diets Cause More Harm Than Good

Low-calorie diets may seem like a good idea, but they actually cause hormonal dysfunction and decrease both metabolism and bone density. And according to Stanford scientists, 38 percent of stress fractures are related to the “Female Athlete Triad” of low body weight, low bone density, and hormonal imbalance. Additionally, up to 60 percent of women exercisers suffer injuries or adverse effects from eating a diet that does not serve their physical needs.

Poor nutrition has been observed as a precursor to injury in male runners as well. In the absence of sufficient calories, the body produces less testosterone or estrogen—which, in turn, decreases muscle mass, lowers metabolic function, and creates lower bone density. The lower your bone density, the more likely you are to suffer a stress fracture and the longer it takes to heal from one. Though we specialize in foot and ankle issues, our total body approach to wellness includes diet considerations. So, if you’re an endurance athlete, stop by our White Plains sports clinic to talk about nutrition.

Prevention truly is the best medicine when it comes to overuse injuries. But whether you’re interested in learning about preventative measures or need treatment for an overuse injury, the foot specialists at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine in White Plains or Manhattan can help. For more information or to book an appointment, contact us today.

If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.