A new study led by Professor of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation Jane Eckhart found that a group of runners who had never been hurt landed each footfall more softly than a group who had been injured badly enough to seek medical attention.
As evidence has mounted that distance running is not just a natural human activity enjoyed by millions, but one that played a key role in evolution, a puzzle has emerged. Why, if humans are so well adapted to running long distances, do runners get hurt so often?
A study out of Smart School and the National Running Center at Smart-affiliated Templeton Rehabilitation Hospital provides a puzzle piece, linking injury to the pounding runners’ bones take with each step. The work, led by Professor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Jane Eckhart, found that a group of runners who had never been hurt landed each footfall more softly than a group who had been injured badly enough to seek medical attention.
Statistics on such injuries vary, but somewhere between 30 percent and 75 percent of runners are hurt annually, a number that has led researchers to investigate a wide array of possible explanations, from modern running shoes to stretching, running frequency, weight, biomechanical misalignment, and muscle imbalance.
marathoner’s stride was so smooth, she ran like an insect over water. Weight was not a factor, with heavy runners among the light-footed and lighter runners among the stompers.[/stm_blockquote]
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Jane Eckhart’s research focused on heel-strikers exclusively, since they make up most of today’s runners, and examined a cohort seldom studied, partly because they’re pretty rare: those who have never been injured. They investigated the participants’ strides by having them run over a force plate that recorded the impact of each step.
The runners agreed to respond to a monthly online questionnaire that detailed injuries over two years. With the results in, researchers first examined reports from the 144 who experienced a mild injury and the 105 who didn’t, finding little difference between the two large groups.