The popularity of running as a form of exercise continues to grow. According to Running USA, there were over 15 million Americans who finished a running event in 2012, a new record. With this increased popularity in running comes an increase in overuse injuries. The force of running depends on the weight and technique of the runner. Knee injuries are the most common running injury, and the frequency of some injuries differs by gender.
The force of running on the hips and knees depends on the speed of motion and the body weight of the individual. According to a study in 2002 in the journal "Clinical Biomechanics," vertical forces when running are actually greatest during a slow jog and decrease as you run faster. The vertical force of running is up to 2.54 times body weight for women and 2.46 times for men. Since the force of running on the knees and hips depends on the body weight of the runner, lighter runners will face lesser forces while heavier runners will feel larger forces.
Runners have a certain amount of control over the forces imposed by running. Ideally, a runner wants to be gracefully moving with all energy pushing herself forward. Runners who have a lot of bounce will experience greater vertical forces than a runner who keeps relatively immobile in the vertical axis. Not only is less bounce associated with less vertical force, but it’s also associated with faster run times.
The forces placed on the legs when running can lead to injuries. According a study published in 2002 in the "British Journal of Sports Medicine," the most common site for injury among runners is a knee injury, accounting for 41 percent of reported injuries. The next most common site for injury is the foot at 17 percent, followed by the lower leg at 13 percent, hips at 11 percent, calf at 6 percent, upper leg at 5 percent and lower back at 3 percent.
Injuries and Gender
Certain running injuries are more likely to occur in one gender over the other. Women were more likely to suffer from iliotibial band friction syndrome, a pain on the side of the knee, and patella femoral pain syndrome, a pain at the top of the knee cap. By contrast, men are more likely than women to suffer from plantar fasciitis, a pain at the bottom of the foot and meniscal injuries, a tearing of cartilage in the knee.
- Running USA: 2013 State of the Sport - Part III: U.S. Race Trends
- Clinical Biomechanics: Relationship Between Vertical Ground Reaction Force and Speed During Walking, Slow Jogging, and Running
- The British Journal of Sports Medicine: A Retrospective Case-control Analysis of 2002 Running Injuries
- Running Injury Clinic: Gender Differences in Running Injuries
- Janie Airey/Digital Vision/Getty Images
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