Injury & Prevention

I think Injury may very well be the most dreaded word in all sports at any level. If you are reading this page, most likely you have had to deal with injury at some point. Well, the good news, at least from my experience is that injury prevention is very possible, it just takes some extra work. For me personally, I have had chronic lower back problems and a bout of plantar fasciitis when I started training for my half ironman. I learned somethings along the way that might apply to you, but, of course, I have to make the disclaimer, I am not qualified to give any advice in this arena, so, if you learn from my experience, great, but if you further injur yourself, don't blame it on my site.

Kinetic Chain

What I learned in physical therapy is that everything is connected and nothing moves in isolation just like the Skeleton Dance song says, "The foot bone's connected to the leg bone. The leg bone's connected to the knee bone......."

Sounds simple and something we all know, but, I think must of us just don't realize how great an effect each part has on the other. By nature, we are driven to give attention to the part of the body that is causing pain or discomfort, but, many times, the body part that is symptomatic is not the root cause of the problem. For example, a big part of the cure for my plantar fasciitis had nothing to do with my feet and everything do with weak and inactive glutes and lack of flexability through the whole kinetic chain.

So, in short, many injuries can be prevented and abated by making sure the entire kinnetic chain, from head to toe, is in good working order and gets a regular exercise regimen. At least, that is what has worked for me.

Lower Back Pain

Early in my running days (in my late 30's), I was running on the indoor track at our club and my lower back just "popped". I knew something bad happened, but, figured I could push through the pain and loosen things up, which was about the worst move I could have made. Within 30 minutes my lower back was completely locked up and I was in excruciating pain. It seemed like an eterninty walking to my car and another eternity driving a stick shift the mile home. I crawled into my house (literally) and immobile for a few days and slowly gained back my ability to function normally over the coming weeks and months. Looking back, I think that this was completely avoidable, or, at least to the extent that it had happened. Since then, I have had many recurrences, but along the way I have learned how to control and prevent it from happening again. I am not always successful, but, I am way better off than I used to be, AND I am racing much more often and longer.

Just like many things in life, the solution is simple, but, implementation takes some work and diligence. I didn't realize it at the time, but, all my muscles were very thight and my flexibility was extremely poor. As I increased my running distances, it all kept getting tighter until something gave out in a big way. Additionally, I had a very week core, sat at a desk all day and slouched for most of it. A formula for disaster. The simple solution, sit up straight, do core/glute exercises and increase flexability. Almost every time I have a recurrance, it is partly due to negelecting one of the afforementioned. Here is a list of some of the exercises I find most helpful.

Plantar Fasciitis

This one was my most recent surprise and happened at the end of my first year of triathlon after I decided to sign up for a Half Ironman and bumped up my training. It came on slowly, with each workout bringing more pain on recovery, until it started becoming unbearable. It took several doctors and an MRI to get a proper diagnosis. I was initially told "Stress Reactions" and to just stop running for 6 months. This didn't make sense to me since, as I figured it would just come back once I started running again. I even had a doctor tell me "well, running doesn't work out for everyone....". He even refused my repeated requests to refer me to a physical therapist. This just p***ed me off and I was determined to find a solution. I finally found a good sports medicine orthopedic surgeon who referred me to a very experienced physical therapist. Once again, the solution was simple. I had not been performing the proper maintenance on my body to support my running and my running form sucked. The prescription was strength training, extremely painful deep tissue massage, stretching and flexability. I still fight to keep it at bay, but, and probably always will if I want to keep training. Here are some of my maintenance exercises to keep the PF under control:

These are my staples, but, really anything that strengthens the glutes and calves and improves mobility/flexability, helps.

Posterier Tibial Tendon

This has been probably the most difficult problem to contol and came hand in hand with my development of Plantar Fasciitis, so, they are certainly related. The Posterior Tibial Tendon runs along the inside of the lower leg and bends around the bottom of the ankle bone. I think it was initiated by a combination of aggressively riding an indoor bike trainer and swimming too much breast stroke, but, once aggrevated, can be affected by almost all strenuous activity.

Keeping this one at bay has been acheived by using the exercises above, direct massage of the tendon as it passes under the ankle, a huge amount of trial and error with my bike setup, purchasing better bike shoes

Stretching, Rolling and Massage

If it hurts, roll it, stretch it, maassage it.

It might seem like a chore at first that isn't making a difference. It might hurt like hell, but, over time, it becomes second nature and self care that you can't seem to live without.