The majority of the most serious track and field injuries involve the lower extremities, that is to say the upper leg, knee, lower leg, ankle, and foot. Common injuries seen in track and field athletes include:
- Strains to the quadriceps (located in the front of the upper leg) or hamstring (located in the back of the upper leg).
- Damage to the knee structure, such as Iliotibial band syndrome, meniscal injuries patellar tendinosis, or patellofemoral dysfunction.
- Lower leg injuries, including stress fractures or shin splints, Achilles tendinitis and tendinosis, and ankle or heel pain.
Track and field athletes may also suffer upper body injuries from falls, such as:
- Scrapes, burns, blisters, or “road rash”
- Wrist or arm injuries from trying to catch themselves during a fall
- Back injuries from twisting while falling.
There is no way to completely remove the risk of injury, but you can minimize risk by following these guidelines for health and safety.
Maintain a training program for the athlete and specific activity
A sprinter, a pole vaulter, and a distance runner will all need conditioning programs that look very different from the others’ training plan. Having a qualified athletic trainer can help ensure the conditioning program is customized correctly.
Wear the right gear
There are various types of gear used in different specialized events, but footwear is critical to maintaining track and field athlete fitness. Make sure shoes match the activity, fit correctly, and are worn with the right socks.
It’s all too easy to dehydrate when doing a long steady workout, especially in cooler weather or indoors. Keep fluids such as water and sports drinks continuously on hand, and set timers if need be to remind yourself about hydration needs. Before competing, make sure to hydrate well before, during (if a long event), and after.
Like other athletes, track and field participants need enough calories from a variety of wholesome foods. Make sure protein and carbs are balanced and endeavor to eat balanced meals over sports shakes and protein powders.
Understand body mechanics
Physical conditioning should be based on a knowledge of body mechanics, as poor mechanics and improper techniques add magnitudes of stress to tendons, joints and bones — especially growing ones. Make sure training programs pay equal attention to flexibility, strength, endurance, agility, and balance.
Get enough sleep
Getting up early to train and staying up late to study can cut into much needed sleep time for young athletes. Pay attention to sleep patterns and sleeping environments, and make space in the middle of the day for a power nap if necessary.
Prevention is the best route to staying injury free. If you have questions about starting a new track and field event, contact our office and book a consultation with Dr. Scott Strasburger.