Sports Performance
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Track & Field

Track & field requires athletes to run on hard surfaces, often causing muscle strains and overuse injuries (tendonitis) to the knees (runner’s knee), feet (plantar fasciitis) and shins (shin splints). Choosing the proper footwear based on your individual foot mechanics is the number-one way to prevent most running injuries. Learn other ways to prevent and treat common running injuries as well as how to select the proper footwear.

Muscle Strains

Track & Field – Muscle Strains

Muscle strains occur when athletes make quick or high-stress movements, causing muscles to pull or tear apart. Those who experience a muscle strain often say it feels like someone kicked them or hit them with a bat on that particular muscle. Muscle strains are more likely to occur in athletes who have been inactive for a period of time, causing tissues to contract.

Preventing Muscle Strains

Runners should take the following precautions to prevent muscle strains:

  • Choose the correct footwear specific to your individual foot biomechanics. Athletes with feet that overpronate (arches fall flat) or underpronate (high arches) should purchase shoes that will support these issues.
  • Avoid wearing old, worn shoes or shoes that do not offer much support or shock absorption through the platform of the foot.
  • Gradually increase running. If you are new to running, gradually build up distance over several weeks.
  • Take breaks, reduce mileage and vary your distance from day-to-day.
  • Run on softer surfaces, as opposed to rock hard surfaces.
  • Follow a regular stretching and warm up program prior to running. Begin with a walk-to-jog for 3 minutes or so, followed by a full-body dynamic stretching routine (stretch with movement). Also, perform static stretching (stretch standing still) after running.
  • Maintain a regular strength program to build stronger and more injury-resistant muscle tissue. This can include: cross training, resistive training, adult fitness classes, weight training, elliptical workouts, swimming, bicycling.

Treating Muscle Strains

Athletes who experience muscle strains should take the following measures:

  • Ice and rest
  • Try to keep the muscle as mobile as possible
  • Light stretches
  • Once the muscle begins to heal and feel more comfortable, resistance-type exercises should be performed to build muscles.

If a sudden and acute onset of pain is noticed in the muscle during an athletic activity, it is necessary to consult with a healthcare professional. In addition, if the muscle progressively gets worse over a few weeks and does not subside with stretching and ice, you should consult with a healthcare professional.

Plantar Fasciitis

Track & Field – Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis occurs when the supporting tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot, from the heel to the toes, is irritated and inflamed. It is caused by frequently running at a high speed and higher rate of force, straining the tissue when the foot is forced to propel forward. Those suffering from plantar fasciitis will feel pain in the bottom of the foot while running and often say it feels like the bottom of the foot is going to snap after the first few steps in the morning.

Preventing Plantar Fasciitis

Runners should take the following precautions to prevent plantar fasciitis:

  • Choose the correct footwear specific to your individual foot biomechanics. Athletes with feet that overpronate (arches fall flat) or underpronate (high arches) should purchase shoes that will support these issues.
  • Avoid wearing old, worn shoes or shoes that do not offer much support or shock absorption through the platform of the foot.
  • Gradually increase running. If you are new to running, gradually build up distance over several weeks.
  • Take breaks, reduce mileage and vary your distance from day-to-day.
  • Run on softer surfaces, as opposed to rock hard surfaces.
  • Follow a regular stretching and warm up program prior to running. Begin with a walk-to-jog for 3 minutes or so, followed by a full-body dynamic stretching routine (stretch with movement). Also, perform static stretching (stretch standing still) after running.
  • Maintain a regular strength program to build stronger and more injury-resistant muscle tissue. This can include: resistance training, adult fitness classes, weight training, elliptical workouts, swimming, bicycling.

Treating Plantar Fasciitis

Athletes who experience plantar fasciitis should take the following measures:

  • Wear shock absorbing, supportive shoes during running and while at rest. It is not advised to walk around barefoot when you have plantar fasciitis.
  • Decrease running.
  • Stretch and strengthen the tissue by doing simple stretches, such as the runner’s stretch, where you bend the front knee and lengthen and stretch the calf of the back leg.
  • Soft tissue massage.

If you are experiencing pain on the bottom of your feet and the pain persists and worsens over the course of two weeks, especially in the first few steps after getting out of bed in the morning or after getting up from a chair, you should consult with a healthcare professional. Once the diagnosis is confirmed, in extreme cases, individuals may need to wear a splint or boot to keep the tissue from getting shortened throughout the night and reduce pain.

Shin Splints

Track & Field – Shin Splints

Shin splints occur when the tissue surrounding the tibia, or shinbone, becomes irritated and inflamed due to the force generated up the leg while running. This common injury often occurs in athletes participating in all types of running sports, including track and field, and is marked by shin pain during exercise or, in extreme cases, all the time.

Preventing Shin Splints

Runners should take the following precautions to prevent shin splints:

  • Choose the correct footwear specific to your individual foot biomechanics. Athletes with feet that overpronate (arches fall flat) or underpronate (high arches) should purchase shoes that will support these issues.
  • Avoid wearing old, worn shoes or shoes that do not offer much support or shock absorption through the platform of the foot.
  • Gradually increase running. If you are new to running, gradually build up distance over several weeks.
  • Take breaks, reduce mileage and vary your distance from day-to-day.
  • Run on softer surfaces, as opposed to rock hard surfaces.
  • Follow a regular stretching and warm up program prior to running. Begin with a walk-to-jog for 3 minutes or so, followed by a full-body dynamic stretching routine (stretch with movement). Also, perform static stretching (stretch standing still) after running.
  • Maintain a regular strength program to build stronger and more injury-resistant muscle tissue. This can include: cross training, resistive training, adult fitness classes, weight training, elliptical workouts, swimming, bicycling.

Treating Shin Splints

Athletes who experience shin splints should take the following measures:

  • Ice the shin for 20 minutes, 3 to 5 times per day, in order to control swelling and inflammation, and help decrease pain.
  • Wear shock absorbing, supportive shoes during running and while at rest. It is not advised to walk around barefoot when you have shin splints.
  • Decrease running.
  • Stretch and strengthen the tissue by doing simple stretches, such as the runner’s stretch.

If shin pain progresses to pain with daily walking or persists for more than two weeks, a physician consultation is suggested to rule out stress fractures. For runners who experience constant pain in the shins, running should be discontinued completely to avoid potential stress fracture.

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