With warmer weather upon us, it’s running season. Just last weekend, I had runners participate in several marathon events, from Cincinnati’s Flying Pig to Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers to Louisville’s Kentucky Derby.
One thing I recommend to all my runners who are experiencing repetitive injuries is Akron Children’s Runner’s Academy. In this individualized workshop, our physical therapists perform a gait analysis and assess 4 things: a runner’s mechanics, strength and flexibility, footwear and lastly, structural concerns. It’s extremely helpful in improving performance and preventing injuries.
Last week, I spoke with 1590 WAKR morning show host Ray Horner about this program, which has been available to runners for 5 years now.
Below is an audio file and transcript of our discussion.
DR. CONGENI: Hey, Ray. How ya doin’ this beautiful morning?
HORNER: I am doing great today. So far, so good with the weather today, and so far, so good with our health, as well, when we talk about our Cleveland Cavaliers as contrast to last year’s play-offs. But, uh, what do you have for us today?
DR. CONGENI: Yeah, gosh, I hope we, uh, can maintain that health and this team can get a chance to go for the gold and see what happens.
But, you know, this time of the year is another season. We’ve talked about it being play-off basketball season and, uh, we’ve talked about it being baseball [season]… . It’s also definitely running season now, Ray.
I see a lot of runners in our office. This past weekend, you know, one of my daughters ran the Pittsburgh half-marathon. Another one of my daughters ran the half-marathon in Columbus. We had the Flying Pig, which is the big race in Cincinnati. Louisville had their big marathon. I had runners going all over this part of the country running.
And, one of the things that we can do best for runners who have had injuries is [something] our physical therapists do, [which] is a gait analysis that has been extremely helpful for some of our injured runners. Uh, at sports medicine at Children’s, we call it the Runner’s Academy.
When people as a part of their injury see our physical therapists and our sports medicine team, this gait analysis is done. … Ray, I know you’ve seen it, where we use the 3 camera views and break down the specifics of mechanics. Breaking down the mechanics of running has been extremely helpful for some of my runners.
Um, what they get out of that is really 4 things. … After this gait analysis, they sit down together with the physical therapist. They go over, uh, breaking down very slowly, what are the arms doing? [What is the core doing]? The legs, what are they doing?
No. 2, they go over an individualized strength and flexibility program to address some of the muscles that may be leading to the problems that these young runners are undergoing. [It’s] a good individualized program.
No. 3, they go over a footwear consultation. In some situations if they need orthotic assessment for inserts in the shoes, uh, they do that, as well.
And, no. 4, they address any structural issues, like if they have knock-knees or a flat foot or high arch or other things that people are born with.
And so, that assessment has been so helpful to some of our athletes that have hamstring problems and Achilles problems and runner’s knee and other issues. I just have to say, you know, a lot of times I sit in the office and people are feeling better and we get ’em to where they’re improved, but then how do we keep ’em there?
We talk about injury prevention. And, in the last 5 years, the greatest thing we’ve come up with is for injury prevention is this Runner’s Academy or gait analysis.
HORNER: When we talk about foot soreness and foot injuries, how do we know the difference? Is it resting it a day or 2 and [seeing if it goes] away?
DR. CONGENI: Yes, I think that’s a really reasonable thing to do. I think, of course, the basic things of RICE: Rest, Ice, Compression and maybe even Elevation if you see some swelling. I think it’s not at all unreasonable for 3 to 5 or maybe even 7 days, Ray, to manage things with the basics of RICE.
But runners know and if they keep going back out and it’s something they love to do and it’s something they want to do, [they know if something’s injured].
… This gait analysis helps tremendously in making the runner more efficient. That’s what they keep telling me and I understand it. You know, my wife and I are walking on the Sand Run Trail or the Towpath Trail and somebody runs by and I can’t help myself.
Oh my gosh, she rolls her eyes at me, and I say, “Look at that runner flailing all over. They’re wasting so much energy.” And then you’ll see somebody run by that looks like a machine. Everything’s perfect and they’re not wasting any energy.
And so, the other part of this Runner’s Academy gait analysis is you can help them performance-wise too. So, if they have a foot problem like you’re talking about and it looks like it’s something that’s continuing to go on, many times it has to do with the way they run. And, making corrections makes a big difference in runners, and I’m here to tell you about it after 5 years of this being on the scene.
HORNER: [laughter] Good stuff. Hey, Joe, great information and insight as always, my friend. We’ll catch up with you next week.
DR. CONGENI: Okay, Ray. Have a great week.
HORNER: You too. Dr. Joe Congeni, Sports Medicine Center at Akron Children’s Hospital, joining us.