Afraid of injuries during running? New research has found a way to prevent them.
If you have recently started running, the fear of injuries may be bothering you, and justifiably so. With all the benefits of running, and there are many, the injury rate among beginner runners is high compared to other types of sports: it is estimated that about 50% of beginner runners will suffer an injury or pain during the first year of training.
As new runners, you've probably received various bits of advice designed to help you avoid injuries, such as stretching exercises, combining resistance training, Pilates or yoga, purchasing shock-absorbing running shoes, and more. All of these methods have been found to be effective as part of the treatment of running injuries, especially those originating from the joints of the foot or the muscles of the legs, but the injuries that most bother the beginning runners are in the knee joint, where the frequency of injuries is the highest. Here, injuries are particularly dangerous, as they are sometimes associated with a tear in the meniscus or erosion of the articular cartilage, which can cause long-term consequences. In mild cases, a limitation of the running distance is required; In severe cases, knee surgery is required.
Certain parts of the knee are extremely vulnerable, due to the repeated shocks that the joint absorbs and can reach up to three to four times the weight of the body with each step. Since every runner takes an average of 180 steps per minute during a run. These are high loads, no wonder they often cause pain. The origin of these pains are in structures designed to reduce the intensity of the shocks absorbed by the bones in the lower body, especially the meniscus tissue and the thin cartilage tissue designed to smooth the movement of the joint.
Studies show that running over a long period of time does not cause erosion of the cartilage tissue or damage to the meniscus, but among runners aged 40 and over, who suffer from a genetic predisposition to cartilage erosion, or those who have previously suffered from knee pain or damage to the knee joint, the risk of pain in these anatomical structures increases during running.
What is the best way to prevent knee pain while running? An answer to the question was given in a new study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. The study reviewed previous scientific papers published on the subject, and found that the most effective method to prevent knee injuries is to learn and practice running with a "soft landing".
This is a two-week program, during which the participants ran four times a week on a moving track, at a pace that was comfortable for them, for periods of time ranging from 15 to 30 minutes. While running, they were shown graphic feedback of the intensity of the shocks that the body absorbs during landing, and they were asked to land more softly, by over-bending the knees, thus trying to reduce the intensity of the shocks.
It turns out that despite the short duration of the program, the participants managed to significantly reduce the intensity of the shocks. What's more: a year-long follow-up revealed that there was a 62% decrease in the rate of injuries among runners who went through the landing training compared to others. This method of practising soft landing, has also been found in other studies to be effective in reducing injuries among runners.
The scientific basis behind the method means that it is not really possible to reduce the intensity of the shocks that the body absorbs while running: using a running shoe with a good ability to absorb shocks reduces the intensity of the shocks by only three per cent. But the shocks can be softened by a longer braking time, using the energy of the muscles. This is similar to the situation of pressing the brake pedal in a car when driving fast: a strong and short press causes an increased load on the brakes and the various components of the vehicle. On the other hand, a more moderate and prolonged press will result in softer braking and reduce the load on the brakes and vehicle components.
A soft landing and increased bending of the knee joints do indeed cause a longer contraction of the muscles, require more strenuous work of the muscle and reduce the metabolic efficiency of running - since the muscles are used as the main shock absorbers - but they have an advantage, which lies in reducing the load on the knee joint, and especially on the tissue The meniscus and cartilage.