MAYO CLINIC -- As a marathoner, you may have already experienced a running injury first-hand. Dr. Ed Laskowski, co-director of the Sports Medicine Center at Mayo Clinic and a specialist in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Mayo Clinic, identifies common running injuries and shares his thoughts about how to prevent and manage the pain.
Dr. Laskowski has been a member of the medical staff of the Chicago marathon, and has been medical director of the Med-City marathon. He has served on the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports for two administrations. Personally, he is an elite-level alpine skier and enjoys hiking, running, biking and skiing with his family.
Q: What are the most common types of injuries among long-distance runners?
A: Not surprisingly, long-distance runners can be at risk of "overuse" injuries in the lower extremities. One of the more common conditions that arises as runners advance their mileage is Iliotibial Band (or ITB) Syndrome. This is usually felt as a runner progresses into longer distance mileage, and the pain is located on the outside of the knee. Other knee pains can be related to patellar tendon irritation (patellar tendinitis) or pain underneath the kneecap (patellofemoral pain). Hamstring strains and plantar fasciitis are also common.
Q: What steps can I take to avoid injury?
A: Make sure that you progress your mileage in gradual fashion. It is always good to have some low impact conditioning (i.e. bicycle, elliptical, water running) that you can alternate with your running. An evaluation with a sports medicine professional with expertise in treating runners can help you to find any imbalances or predisposing factors in flexibility, strength, or muscle control that may contribute to injury.
Q: Can I run through the pain of my injury during training or a race?
A: Soreness of muscles and tissues as you progress through higher levels of training and increasing mileage is normal. If the soreness resolves as you continue to run and doesn't interfere with your running mechanics, you likely can continue.
Q: How will I know if the injury is severe enough so that I absolutely must suspend my training?
A: Any pain associated with joint swelling or that causes the joint to feel unstable should be evaluated. You should also seek an evaluation for pain that persists or intensifies after rest from running or pain that causes you to compensate, change your running, or change your gait.
Q: What are some tips for managing ongoing pain?
A: Pay attention to pain. It's your body's way of giving you feedback that something is not quite right. Get the pain evaluated by a sports medicine professional sooner rather than later because the earlier an injury is diagnosed and treated, the better the outcome.
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Mayo Clinic submissions to Mile Marker are reviewed by the Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine Center team. The Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine Center http://www.mayoclinic.org/sportsmedcenter-rst treats sports and activity related injuries, creates customized exercise programs and provides preventive care for athletes of all levels.
Mayo Clinic is a proud sponsor of the Twin Cities Marathon. More than 3,700 physicians, scientists and researchers, and 50,100 allied health staff work at Mayo Clinic, which has campuses in Rochester, Minn; Jacksonville, Fla; and Scottsdale/Phoenix, Ariz.; and community-based providers in more than 70 locations in southern Minnesota., western Wisconsin and northeast Iowa.