Common Track Injuries—And How to Prevent Them

Let’s face it: Most track and fielders have experienced an injury at least once in their careers. These are the most common injuries faced by runners, and a guide to preventing them. 

Runner’s Knee

Nearly half of running injuries are knee-related, and runner’s knee (patellofemoral pain syndrome) is no exception. Runner’s knee is just a broad term for inflammation around the kneecap caused by overuse and rigorous training. Prevent this common injury by regularly checking your shoes (out with the old running sneakers!), shortening your stride to take the load off the knee joints, and avoiding repetitive downhill running when possible. 

Shin Splints

Especially common with new runners, shin splints (medial tibial stress syndrome) occur when the muscle begins to tear away from the shinbone. The only real remedy for shin splints—which can develop into a more serious injury over time—is time off. In order to stave them off, concentrate on form, flexibility, and overall muscle strength. It also helps to run on even, forgiving terrain; asphalt and heavy pounding can exacerbate the condition. 

Achilles Tendonitis

The tendon connecting the calf to the ankle can suffer from inflammation due to stress. When that happens, it becomes painful and can, in some instances, suffer rupture or tear. Rest and ice are two good remedies for this condition, which improves with time. To prevent it from happening, make sure to take a dedicated training rest day to guard against overuse. 

Iliotibial Band Syndrome 

Common in runners who have increased their mileage by too much too fast, this is an inflammation of the IT band, which runs from the hip along the outside of the thigh to the knee. Foam rolling is an extremely effective and proactive way of combatting this issue—and it’s especially useful to roll out before a run, to prevent it from happening to begin with. 

Plantar Fasciitis

This plaguing problem has no real remedy. When the plantar fascia—the ligament connecting the heel to the front of the foot—bears too much stress, it can become inflamed and painful, meaning that putting any pressure at all on the foot is, at times, unbearable. There are socks and exercises that can help therapeutically treat the problem, but it often takes months to heal once it presents. To prevent it, make sure your shoes are right for your stride and that you are increasing your weekly mileage by no more than 10 percent per week. 

Stress Fracture

Known among runners as the game-ender, stress fractures occur when continued strain on the bone causes an actual fracture to occur. You can not—and should not—run on a stress fracture, which can take anywhere from 6 weeks to 6 months to heal properly. Prevention strategies include integrating strength training to build bone mass, planning rest days, and increasing mileage by no more than 10 percent per week.

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