Usain Bolt and the Most Common Running Injuries

He’s back. The fastest man ever is back running after a recent unspecified running injury. It’s hard to tell exactly what was injured, but after an injury and treatment in Munich- far away from this NYC podiatrist- Usain is back on track and running again, as reported here. According to Usain, “setbacks are a part of track and field”. So, is that true? Let’s talk.

There are many scientific, and many more not so scientific, studies that detail the rates of running injuries. And, there is wide variability in the conclusions of these studies based on how the injury is defined, and, for the most part what the author of the study is attempting to prove or sell, as it were. However, we can somewhat safely say, based on surveys, that approximately 50% of runners will suffer some level of injury per year - a figure that is rather high. The top five lower extremity injuries are patellofemoral syndrome, iliotibial band syndrome, shin splints, Achilles tendonitis, and my favorite, heel pain (plantar fasciitis). The common etiology that these injuries share is that they all may arise due to overuse and the position of the foot when running. Another common thread that unites these injuries is that I personally have had each one at some point and overcame them through stretching, rest, slight gait modification, better shoes and orthotics.

There are as many theories purporting to define and prevent these injuries as there are runners. Some of those theories include shoegear with different levels of support, position of the foot, running pace, frequency and intensity of training. Thankfully, the barefoot running fad has passed for the most part and we are back to recommending comfortable supportive shoes as I’ve been advocating for throughout the barefoot craze. Recent studies have demonstrated that it’s more important to let the foot strike on the part that feels most natural, rather than attempting to strike on the forefoot, midfoot or rearfoot. As I tell my NYC podiatry patients, strike where the foot wants to land, don’t worry about your pace, and replace running shoes every 250-500 miles. And for Bolt’s sake, use a custom orthotic.

So, would all this work for Usain and is injury a part of the sport? Unfortunately, sprinting is a high-impact sport, and Usain is at the very top of the game. The real surprise is that he hasn’t been injured before and that the injury was so mild it was not even mentioned. It speaks volumes to his training, discipline and likely his coaches who have cultivated a running machine who is efficient and proficient. It also serves as a lesson to us mortals who can, even on the weekends, maintain good form, listen to our bodies, run as efficiently as possible and remain injury-free for many years. And if that doesn’t work, stop in and see your NYC podiatrist.

See you in the office.

Ernest Isaacson

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