Injures induced by running the same direction on an indoor/outdoor track.

We have been seeing, addressing and treating this problem for years, far too many years. There are few things that frustrate us more than coaches and athletes who refuse to alternate their track workouts into the clockwise direction to help avoid the repetitious detrimental training effects of continued and repeated counterclockwise track training. 

Here is a study from 2000 that tends to validate a causal link to our point. The study confirms a statistically significant asymmetrical strength development in the hindfoot invertor and evertor muscle groups. 

Imbalances are a frequent and well known cause of injury.  Consciously driving this asymmetry is the equivalent to purposefully encouraging injury if you as us.  Why anyone would not heed recommendations to balance out workout effects is beyond us.  We encourage road work so that there are no repetitive track banks to negotiate and thus knowingly drive asymmetry.  When weather makes outdoor work an impossibility then days should ideally alternate the flow on the track to counter the direction of the previous day.  And as track event days get closer then the inevitable will occur that you want to simulate race day direction but at least deeply engrained (skill, endurance and strength) training effects in the counterclockwise direction will not terribly risk injury as much as if there had been no training changes and accommodations.

The smaller the track radius the more detrimental the training effects. Frequency and duration of the training further magnifies training effects. A banked track will mute some of the effects but not all of them. 
So why not just reverse the direction of your track training ?  And don’t tell is it is logistically too difficult to coordinate, that is a lame excuse. You are training yourself or your athletes to be better runners, so you should want to reduce risks and optimize training effects. Period.

Shawn and Ivo……… The Gait Guys

Clin J Sport Med. 2000 Oct;10(4):245-50.

Asymmetrical strength changes and injuries in athletes training on a small radius curve indoor track.

Beukeboom C, Birmingham TB, Forwell L, Ohrling D.

Abstract

OBJECTIVES:

1) To evaluate strength changes in the hindfoot invertor and evertor muscle groups of athletes training and competing primarily in the counterclockwise direction on an indoor, unbanked track, and 2) to observe injuries occurring in these same runners over the course of an indoor season.

DESIGN:

Prospective observational study.

SETTING:

Fowler-Kennedy Sport Medicine Clinic, The University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario.

PARTICIPANTS:

A convenience sample of 25 intercollegiate, long sprinters (200-600 m) and middle distance runners (800-3,000 m) competing and training with the 1995-1996 University of Western Ontario Track and Field team.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES:

A standardized protocol using the Cybex 6000 isokinetic dynamometer was used to measure peak torques of the hindfoot invertor and evertor muscle groups of both limbs using concentric and eccentric contractions performed at angular velocities of 60, 120, and 300 degrees/sec. Changes in peak torques between the preseason and postseason values were calculated and compared using a repeated measures analysis of variance test. Injury reports were collected by student athletic trainers and in the Sport Medicine and Physiotherapy clinic.

RESULTS:

Primary analysis indicated that the left (inside limb) invertors increased in strength significantly more than the right (outside limb) invertors (p = 0.01), while the right evertors increased in strength significantly more than the left evertors (p = 0.04). A high incidence of lower extremity injury (68%) occurred in this sample of runners, corresponding to an injury rate of 0.75 injuries per 100 person-hours of sport exposure. Although sample size was limited, secondary analysis indicated that strength changes were not significantly different for injured (n = 17) and uninjured (n = 8) runners (p > 0.05).

CONCLUSIONS:

The observed small, but statistically significant, asymmetrical changes in strength of the hindfoot invertor and evertor muscle groups can best be described as a training effect. Altered biomechanics proposed to occur in the stance foot while running on the curve of the track are discussed in relation to the observed strength imbalance. A causal link between strength changes and lower extremity injuries cannot be inferred from this study, but suggestions for further research are made.

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