Which injury do Runners most commonly suffer?

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With the popularity of recreational running growing across the country Dublin City University recently conducted a study looking to answer:

‘Which injury do Runners most commonly suffer?’

Can you guess what they found?

In their study of 142 running club members the runners were asked for a detailed history of any relatable injuries and the CALF MUSCLE came up trumps. 25% of the study’s runners described a past calf muscle injury. This was followed by the knee at 15.6% and the Hip at 13%.

If this comes as no surprise to you and the muscles in your Calf are your weak point then KEEP ON READING…

The Calf muscle, on the back of the lower leg, is comprised of two muscles: the Gastrocnemius (a larger muscle, forming the visible shape beneath the skin) and the Soleus (a smaller, flat muscle underneath the gastrocnemius). These two muscles come together at their base merging into the Achilles Tendon.

A Calf muscle strain – sometimes also called a pulled Calf or pulled muscle – refers to an injury in either part of the calf as the result of forcible stretching beyond the tissues’ limits or overloading the muscle too much which causes the fibres to break down.

An underlying lack of flexibility and strength in your Calf muscles and Achilles tendon is usually the primary cause of lower-leg problems.

Here are a few of our suggestions to safe guard yourself from developing a Calf muscle strain:

STRETCH:

Any chance you get, stretch those legs! As the Calf is made up of the Gastrocnemius muscle and the Soleus muscle you need to be sure you are stretching both.

Firstly the Gastroc…. Face a wall, extend 1 leg behind you keeping the foot straight, heel pressed into the ground and knee locked out straight. Lean into the wall until you feel tension in the back of your leg.
Hold still for 30 seconds.
Repeat at least 3 times.

To stretch the Soleus simply bend the back knee and feel the stretch lower down in the leg nearer the heel.

Don’t skip the cool-down stretches after you run either. This recovery period helps muscles distribute and eliminate waste products.

STRENGTHEN:

Runners require a considerable level of strength in their Calf Muscle yet commonly neglect to strengthen them. Taking a few minutes every day to perform the following easy exercises will help to train the muscle to meet the demand for running and reduce the likelihood of injury.

1- Heel Raises off step
Stand with the toes of both feet on a step allowing the arch and heel of your foot to hang off the back of the step. Hold onto a rail for balance. Now raise up and onto your toes in a slow, controlled movement.
Lower yourself back down and repeat for a set of 10 to 15 raises X 3

Over time as this feels easier increase the number of repetitions.
Once you can perform 50 raises x 3 progress by using 1 leg only performing single heel raises.

2- ‘Farmer walk’ on tip-toes
Grab a pair of heavy dumbbells (or bottles of water!) and hold them down at your sides. Raise your heels and walk forward (or in a circle) for 60 seconds. Try to stand as tall as you can and puff out your chest.
This exercise not only gets your Calfs burning but also improves your cardiovascular fitness. Choose the heaviest pair of dumbbells that allows you to perform the exercise without breaking form for 60 seconds.
If you feel that you could have gone longer, grab heavier weights on your next set.

FOAM ROLL:

We (experienced sports physios) love the foam roller… though getting into those tender Calf points is not going to be fun initially, perseverence pays off dividends!

Foam rolling regularly has been proven to reduce the onset of DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness- you know that thing when you get up 1-2 days after a tough session and can’t move for the muscle ache!?!).
It acts as a form of massage increasing blood flow in the tissue and promoting flexibility.

Place a foam roller under your ankle, with your leg straight. Cross your other leg over your ankle. Put your hands flat on the floor for support and keep your back naturally arched. Roll your body forward until the roller reaches the back of your knee. Then roll back and forth focusing on tight and tender points. Roll for 2 minutes and then repeat with other Calf. (If this is too hard, perform the movement with both legs on the roller.)

Try to commit to foam rolling 3-4 x week.

If you’re new to the Foam Roller then we suggest you begin your journey with a smooth surfaced one like THIS. Or perhaps your muscle need a bit more of a push and you are hard core enough to try one with trigger point ridges like THIS?

SPORTS MASSAGE:

Fancy someone else doing the hard work for you for a change?? Consider booking a sports massage for the whole lower legs on a monthly basis. You can ask the massage therapist to focus more so on your Calf muscles… an experienced sports physio will be able to feel your naughty (or knotty) Calfs without a word from you.

WARM UP:

Warm-up for at least 5-10 minutes before you run.
For the Calfs…. keep it simple by either raising your calves slowly up and down while standing on the spot focusing on keeping your balance OR walking on your tip toes for 1 minute. follow this with a 30 second stretch.

STRENGTH AND CONDITIONING (S&C):

You will hear us say it over and over again but S&C is pretty vital for helping to keep the body injury-free as a whole. On top of injury prevention other benefits of S&C include: speed, agility, strength, power, endurance, mobility, stability, balance and durability…. WOW!

Try and incorporate a S&C class into your weekly routine and you won’t regret it.

 

If you have had a difficult history with your calf muscles or are looking for some specialised advice or treatment do please get in touch with us at Pure Physio Clinic… we’d love to help.

 

 

By Rebecca McNamara