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The cause of running injuries can sometimes be a total mystery. Injuries appear to occur at random and without regard to how carefully a runner has planned a training program. In order to improve your chances of running injury-free, it is important to understand some of the common injury risk factors.
A recent study analyzed a number of other studies on running injuries and divided risk factors into four categories: (1) systemic factors, (2) running-related factors, (3) health factors, and (4) lifestyle factors. In this post, I will cover the first two categories. Check back later for part 2 of this article.
Systemic factors are the toughest for runners to overcome because they can not be changed. For example, the study found that greater age was associated with front thigh injuries and that female runners were at greater risk of developing hip injuries.
Additionally, runners with leg length differences have a higher rate of lower leg problems and taller male runners had a greater risk of new injuries.
Although a runner can not do much to change his/her height or gender, it is important to understand and take preventative measures against these risk factors. For example, female runners should carefully stretch and strengthen the hip muscles. All runners with a history of injuries should determine whether they have a leg length difference and insert a heel lift if needed.
Running more miles per week will get into better shape, but it also puts you at a greater risk of injury. Specifically, the rate of injuries increases when runners run more than 40 miles per week or more. Additionally, running longer races (i.e. half marathon or marathon) increases the risk of injuries.
The study found that female runners who train on concrete have a higher rate of injuries, but there is no increased risk of injuries from running on hilly terrain, running in the dark, or running in the morning. Also notable was that the pace of training runs was not a significant factor for running injuries. However, running too fast on daily runs can lead to over-training problems, include fatigue.
Please check back later for a discussion of the health factors and lifestyle factors that can contribute to running injuries.