A blog by runners. For runners.

Study: The factors that increase runners’ risk for injury

Factors that increase runners' risk for injuryDuring training for your first marathon, it was your IT band. Last spring, it was your piriformis. Now you suspect plantar fasciitis is behind the pain in your feet.

Sound familiar? Injury is all too common among runners, with 70 percent of us getting hurt at some point during our running careers. However, some runners seem to be injured constantly, while others stay healthy nearly all of the time.

Who gets hurt?
Dutch researchers set out to find the traits most likely to sideline runners. They looked at the data and analyzed the results of 15 previously published longitudinal studies, and discovered some factors that contributed to running injury risk. The research, published in the journal PLOS ONE, showed the following:

  • Men are more likely than women to suffer from an injury.
  • People who had a history of previous injury were more likely to get injured than those who had never been hurt, especially in men.
  • Runners who used orthotics or shoe inserts were injured more often.

The scientists also noted differences between the sexes when it came to getting hurt. These factors were associated with a greater risk of injury in women:

  • Older age
  • Participating in other sports, such as cycling and swimming
  • Running on a concrete surface
  • Running a marathon in the past year
  • Running between 30-39 miles per week
  • Wearing running shoes for 4-6 months before replacing them

The following variables were linked with a higher chance of injury in men:

  • Having been running for fewer than 2 years
  • Restarting running after taking time off
  • Running between 20-29 miles per week
  • Running more than 40 miles per week 

Interpreting the results
If you’re a woman who regularly runs on the sidewalk, logs 35 miles per week, and recently ran a marathon, take heart. Keep in mind all runners are different. Just because a study showed these factors increase the risk of injury, it doesn’t mean that you will get hurt any time soon.

The take home message
However, there’s one main point all runners should take from this research: a slow return to running after an injury is a must.

The study’s authors could not pinpoint why a past running injury is more likely to bring on another one, but they had a few theories. Runners may get reinjured if they don’t take enough time off from running to allow their existing injury to heal. What’s more, if you don’t fix what caused the injury – such as poor mechanics, running too fast, or wearing the wrong type of shoes — you may keep getting hurt. You may need to make adjustments to your running form, approach to training, or footwear to prevent further injuries from happening.

The next time that you’re injured, take plenty of time off to completely recover before you run again, and try to figure out what caused your injury. Talk to your doctor or consider working with a running coach. Try not to focus on the short-term, and look at running as a lifelong commitment. It’s better to sit out for a few months and properly heal so you can stay healthy in the future.

 Written by Jen Matz.