RUNNING ASSESSMENTS: ALL YOU “KNEE” TO KNOW

Jacob Monk

February 7, 2022

We’ve all been there before. The summer sun comes out, you are motivated to start getting fitter or train for an upcoming sporting event, so its time to start pounding the pavement. Sooner or later, something starts to ache. The knee. The Achilles. The hip. All of a sudden, everything is less motivating and you are frustrated that this isn’t the first time some issue has arisen.

Running is associated a big incidence of lower limb injuries running, with up to 80% of them being overuse injuries (van der Worp et al., 2015). The most common on these being some sort of knee pain that will affect almost every runner at some stage in their life. It’s often unavoidable and doesn’t have one direct cause. Sometimes it’s doing too much too soon, not being strong enough in certain areas or sometimes it’s simply just the way you land.

This is where a running assessment by an experienced physiotherapist comes in.

WHAT ARE THEY?

Running assessments involve you on a treadmill, a smartphone and a keen eye. Often the root cause of a particular problem, reoccurring or not, can be reasoned by looking closely at how someone runs.

DO THEY WORK?

A very recent 2020 study even showed that the stress on the knee can be reduced by 22% by simply increasing a runner’s cadence or step rate each minute by as little as 5-10%. There are various different ways this can be achieved by different cues which include:

  • Step rate >172 per minute
  • Quicker/shorter steps
  • Land softer/closer to centre of body
  • Lift heels up at back / drive knees forward

It might 6 weeks for these changes to completely feel comfortable, but eventually with proper instruction and a gradual building of kilometres ran, a more optimized running style can be implemented.

Images are taken and assessed by the Physio through out the assessment

WHY DO I NEED ONE?

Although there is no normal or single way to run, running assessments can provide the clues as to what small aspects of someone gait need to be altered to help make big differences to their pain and prevent injuries.

Problems will arise either at the start of a training program or once things start to get much busier and the kilometres suddenly start to tick up. If you are training for a longer distance race but are starting to get pain or soreness only at 10km, you might be worried at your ability to get through the training in the lead up to your race.

The biggest mistake that I will often see is someone coming in 4-6 weeks before their first long distance race, where they have let something go and they are currently unable to get through the first 5km without limping. At that stage it is more about getting the athlete to manage both the remaining training and their pain. The technique changes can come after the race.

Ideally, we are seeing someone as they start to notice niggles and have the time to reduce the amount of running they are doing temporarily, to allow for integration of better running form.

Christian Barton Running retraining Masterclass

HOW CAN I ORGANIZE ONE?

If this sounds like something you have experienced before or you are planning on getting out of the house and pushing your running limits then a running assessment might just be for you.

Running assessment are often integrated into regular appointments by physiotherapists when you come to see them about your running injury. If you want your running specifically looked at and there is no pressing issue or problem, you can always organize an appointment to specifically analyse how you run.

ABOUT JACOB MONK

Jacob graduated from Latrobe University in 2013 and has worked extensively with lower limb injuries in runners (including run assessments), as well as several football and high-level basketball teams since. He also has a special interest in groin, hip and knee pain in particular. Jacob has recently returned this year from 3 years living abroad in Tokyo, where he had the opportunity to be involved with the 2019 Rugby World Cup Australian side. Currently he is in the final year of his Masters of Sports Physiotherapy degree.

REFERENCES:

1. Mullaney, M. J., & Fukunaga, T. (2016). Current concepts and treatment of patellofemoral compressive issues. International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy, 11(6), 891-902.

2. Neal, B. S., Barton, C. J., Gallie, R., O’halloran, P., & Morrissey, D. (2016). Runners with patellofemoral pain have altered biomechanics which targeted interventions can modify: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Gait & Posture, 45, 69-82.

3. Barton, C. J., Lack, S., Hemmings, S., Tufail, S., & Morrissey, D. (2015). The ‘best practice guide to conservative management of patellofemoral pain’: Incorporating level 1 evidence with expert clinical reasoning. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 49(14), 923-934.

4. van der Worp, M. P., ten Haaf, D. S. M., van Cingel, R., de Wijer, A., Nijhuis-van der Sanden, M. W. G., & Staal, J. B. (2015). Injuries in runners; A systematic review on risk factors and sex differences. PLOS ONE, 10(2), e0114937

5. Davis, I. S., Tenforde, A. S., Neal, B. S., Roper, J. L., & Willy, R. W. (2020). Gait retraining as an intervention for patellofemoral Pain. Current Reviews in Musculoskeletal Medicine, 13(1), 103-114