Physical therapist shares tips to avoid running injuries

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By Mark Ambrogi

With the Carmel Marathon set for April 22 and the 500 Festival Mini-Marathon to follow May 6, Franciscan St. Francis Health physical therapist Jerry Svendsen has some knowledge for runners to help prevent injuries.

Franciscan St. Francis Health physical therapist Jerry Svendsen gives injury prevention tips to runners at Carmel Clay Public Library. (Photo by Mark Ambrogi)

Svendsen gave a presentation March 7 as part of the Carmel Clay Public Library’s Stethoscope Series.

“The cardinal rule of running, which I first heard from physiotherapist from the University of Southern California, is you need to be fit to run. You don’t run to get fit,” Svendsen said. “Almost everyone breaks it that is running out there. Running doesn’t make you automatically fit. You’ve got to do it to have to build yourself up.”

Svendsen said shoes aren’t as important as many believe to prevent injuries, according to research. The most important thing is sensible and progressive training.

Other important facets are improving the core, cross-training, getting adequate rest and sleep and getting adequate nutrition and hydration.

“Most people get injuries due to training errors. That’s one of the highest risk factors where people get in trouble,” Svendsen said. “People are gradual enough in building up their bodies to withstand the continual pounding the body takes. In an ideal world, we would have great physical and running mechanics. We’d all be well-balanced in diet and hydration.”

Svendsen said there is no perfect running form, but there are three important characteristics that physical therapists want to examine in their patients. Svendsen said runners are taped while on a treadmill.

“We don’t want runners to over-stride and take too much of a step,” Svendsen said. “We don’t want to see excessive bouncing. We don’t want you coming up in the air. Then compliance, we don’t want you to over-pronate (weight transferred from heel to forefoot). Everyone pronates, that’s part of the running cycles. If you are too stiff and too non-compliant, you’re not accepting, anticipating that stress and that can cause stress fractures.”

Planning is important. Svendsen said although someone could get ready for the Carmel Marathon in a month, it would be much better to start in January to build up conditioning.

“Most injuries we see are over-use injuries,” Svendsen said. “You over-train, or poor running mechanics.”

Svendsen said most running injuries involve lower extremities, knee, ankles and feet.

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