Overuse injuries are common in sports, perhaps no more so than in track & field. In addition to shin splints, which is the number one overuse injury in track, some of the most common injuries are:
- Chondromalacia a/k/a "Runner's Knee": this painful knee ailment occurs when the kneecap (patella) rubs against one side of the knee joint irritating the surface of the undersurface of the patella and causing pain. Runner's knee is more often seen in female athletes, the thinking being that a woman's wider hips increase lateral forces on the kneecap.
- Patellar tendonitis a/k/a "Jumper's Knee": When the patellar tendon, which connects the kneecap (the patella) to the shin bone, becomes inflamed, an athlete has patellar tendonitis. While most often seen in athletes participating in jumping-types of sports such as basketball or volleyball, this injury is also common in track and field. It can result from overuse but also when the kneecap does not move up and down (i.e. track) properly in its natural groove, causing friction leading to inflammation leading to chronic pain.
- Stress fractures. Perhaps the ultimate overuse injury. Left untreated a sore spot on a bone (also known as a hot spot) leads to a hairline fissure in the bone, which leads to a fracture, which can lead to the bone completely breaking in two. Bottom line: don't ignore and continue running when there is pain and soreness in a bone. Treat it while it is a hot spot.
Three Primary Causes
Overuse is the cause of most chronic, nagging injuries. Track & Field lends itself to these problems because of the repetitive motion in most events. There are several primary causes of overuse problems:
- Biomechanical imbalance
- Running too much
- Running on hard surfaces