Missouri Orthopaedic Institute seminar highlights safe running practices

Thursday, November 14, 2013 | 11:48 p.m. CST; updated 5:52 a.m. CST, Friday, November 15, 2013

COLUMBIA — Running can be a great form of exercise, but it can be very harmful to the body without proper training. 

The Missouri Orthopaedic Institute held a seminar for runners Thursday evening to help educate them about safe and effective training techniques to improve performance and reduce common injuries.

The seminar, titled "The Lifelong Runner — Protecting Your Body Mile After Mile," featured a panel of six of the institute's health professionals who specialize in sports medicine.

David Echelmeyer, a physical therapist at the institute, addressed running injuries and the newest advances in treatment.

Due to ground reaction forces, 65 to 75 percent of runners are injured at some point in time, Echelmeyer said. Ground reaction forces are forces exerted by the ground against the feet, which are 2 to 3 times a person's body weight while running, he said. The forces grow even stronger with improper training techniques.

To help reduce the chance of injuries, physical therapists look to reduce ground reaction forces, Echelmeyer said. For example, a shorter running stride is safer because long strides increase the ground reaction force, he said.

Physical therapists are starting to use new technologies to evaluate runners' strides and look for abnormalities that could explain the cause of an injury.

Video gait analysi allows physical therapists to do just that by examining injured runners through slow-motion videos. The examination allows Echelmeyer to find deficiencies in runners' strides and help correct running techniques.

"It gives you a self-evaluation tool," Echelmeyer said. "Changing your form can make a great deal of difference."

To help reduce ground reaction forces on the feet, runners should maintain a forward leaning posture and land softer on their feet, Echelmeyer said.

Aaron Gray, an MU Health Care sports medicine physician, addressed patellofemoral pain, the most common orthopedic pain experienced by runners. Often referred to as runners' knee, it accounts for 16 to 25 percent of all runners' injuries, Gray said.

Runners' knee is a result of increased friction where the kneecap glides over the thigh bone, and results in pain behind the kneecap, he said.

To reduce the chances of developing runners' knee, Gray made the suggestion to avoid training with full squats and lunges, strengthen the body's core and reduce mileage if pain behind the kneecap develops.

"You never want to start running with pain," Gray said. "If you're having pain, your body is telling you that there is something wrong."

Due to a high level of interest, the institute will host a second session of the runners' seminar from  7 to 8:30 p.m on Dec. 12 in the institute's fourth floor conference room at 1100 Virginia Ave., said Colin Planalp, media coordinator for the event. It will feature the same speakers and cover the same topics.

Supervising editor is Stephanie Ebbs.

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