Track-and-Field Injury Prevention Tips
Apr 5, 2013 - 2:54:46 PM

( - Carmel, NY, April 2013 - With the coming of spring, millions of young people look forward to getting back to the sprints, hurdles, long-distance running and other events that comprise track and field, one of the fastest growing sports among children and teenagers. As an individual non-contact sport, track is generally considered to have limited risk of injury, but as many as 70-80% of participants are injured in the course of each season.

"The type of event influences the most prevalent injuries," says Dr. Scott Levin, sports medicine specialist with Somers Orthopaedic Surgery and Sports Medicine Group. "For example, hurdlers often injure the upper extremities as a result of tripping and falling over the hurdles and attempting to break the fall with the hands. Some studies have shown that sprinters tend to sustain pelvic injuries, probably because the hip flexor muscles that drive forward motion are subject to the sudden bursts of speed that characterize sprinting.  And events such as discus throwing can cause injuries to the shoulder and hip."

In general, however, running predominates in most school track and field programs and the most common injuries are to knees, lowers legs and feet. These include runner's knee (patellofemoral pain syndrome), which is essentially irritation of the cartilage of the kneecap and causes tenderness around the front of the knee; iliotibial band syndrome, or irritation of the iliotibial band, which runs along the outside of the thigh and causes  pain on the outside of the knee; shin splints (medial tibial stress syndrome), caused by inflammation of the muscles and tendons that cover the shinbone; Achilles tendinitis, which is inflammation of the Achilles tendon between the heel and lower leg; and heel pain caused by plantar fasciitis, inflammation of tissue on the bottom of the foot.

"In addition to injuries associated with specific events, track and field participants suffer from a wide variety of annoyances such as ankle sprains, pulled muscles, blisters and side stitches," says Dr. Levin. "All these conditions can be painful and worrisome but they are also avoidable. Overuse and poor form are often to blame, but athletes can take steps to prevent injury and continue their workouts without discomfort."

Dr. Levin offers the following tips for avoiding injury:

Dr. Levin has one more bit of advice as youngsters head for the track. "Many of the injuries sustained by track and field athletes appear minor but they may become serious over time if not properly treated. Cut back on your training at the first sign of pain. The sooner you reduce your workload, the sooner healing can start.  If the pain persists, see a doctor. And when the pain is gone, rebuild your activity level gradually. Treat your body well and it will see you pain free through many seasons."

Somers Orthopaedic Surgery and Sports Medicine Group, founded in 1988, is one of the most comprehensive and specialized practices in the region.

Scott M. Levin, M.D., F.A.A.O.S is a board certified orthopaedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist.


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