Injury Prevention strategies for Runners

Injury Prevention Management : SunCity Tri
December 16, 2017
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Injury Prevention strategies for Runners

The top 3 most common injuries from this injury poll were Calf, Knee and Back pain but I’m also going to include achilles into this as you will soon see why.

This is a large topic which can include; running styles: different foot types, correct foot wear and training loads that can all contribute to calf, knee back and achilles pain.

Keeping this simple, we are going to look at

  • controlling forces
    • zone stacking giving a strong base of support
    • creating a central line of alignment (CLA)
  • Transmission of forces – efficient transfer of energy
    • Elastic recoil
  • Controlling forces

Your body is a series of building blocks (see image below) 

On the right there is a solid foundation, the red base (ankle) under the green (knee) supporting the blue pelvis, red triangle (spine)

This is structurally solid and gives a central longitudinal axis (CLA). This person would need a 1:1 ratio in strength and flexibility training.

Consider the ground reaction force coming up from the ground it would be a straight line  (CLA) coming straight up the middle  dissipating forces equally though the joints due to good zone stacking. You can see how you can transmit your forces effectively along this CLA.


On the left, the green ankle is not directly under the yellow knee, there is no zone stacking in this pillar. Consider drawing a line of force from the ground through the green ankle and then it would rotate and go up in a diagonal direction, instead of going up straight through the  yellow knee and blue pelvis it would focus force to the anterior hip/ groin through to the tip of the red triangle, low back pain. This rotational force would result in pain at any point in the kinetic chain i.e. Achilles/ calf/ knee/ hip / back pain. The calf would be a compensatory pain, treating the calf / achilles would not change the outcome, until the zone stacking was improved. This athlete would need an asymmetric training load to compensate for the imbalances. A 1:1 ratio in training  and certainly an increase in training would keep the injury reoccurring. This athlete would often complain that they stretch but it makes no difference. This athlete should not be surprised that  their physio may want to focus more attention on the lower kinetic chain rather than the back pain, which in the long run will stop the back pain returning.


Exercise 1- stand in your underwear infront of the mirror and view your zone stacking- is your shoulder over your hip, over your knee and over your ankle?

Are you equal left to right?

If you are not zone stacking in standing- it is rare that you will zone stack when you run where you create up to 4 times your forces going through your joints,

Exercises 2 – stand side on to the mirror and view your zone stacking- draw an imaginary line of gravity coming down the middle of your skull, does it go straight down – between your sternum and thoracic spine, middle of your pelvis, an through your tibia? i.e. 90 * to the floor. If your line is oblique then you can identify where the force will start to cause pain in the joint and the antagonistic muscle which will be over working to protect you.

  1. Transmission of forces- elastic recoil 

(This is not including elastic energy storage or a muscle, where energy metabolism is key.)

I am talking about diagonal elastic support, whereby counter body rotation creates a diagonal stretch then release of energy, like a spring unwinding i.e. When your upper body rotates the opposite way to your lower half when running.

Look at how Gebresellesi 

has counter rotation of his left pelvis opposite to his right shoulder girdle. If this counter rotation is equal when he come through to his next foot strike then he has equal counterrotation creating an efficient force of transfer when running. The effect of good counter rotation elasticity distributes forces over a larger area decreasing the likelihood of injury.


What happens when an athlete rotates more to one side compared to the other side? Imagine that spring tightening up well on one side, creating high amplitude of force ready to be dissipated. Where can that force go when the spring is released but the spring on the other side  is not stretched equally? Symptoms soon arise in areas that can no longer compensate.


Exercise 1- when running – stay loose goosey and encourage equal rotation in your upper body. Only sprinters need a very tight recoil. Do you rotate equally when running?


When you take a look at the CLA and zone stacking of top athletes and the rotational elasticity you can see why injuries repeat on a unilateral side.


I hope that brings some new ways to looking at your biomechanics when you train

If you have any questions or would like me to help you then book in at

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