Syracuse Area Health – Strasburger Orthopaedics

Fall Sport Highlight: Cross Country Running

With many regions limiting fall sports, cross country running is still going strong and can be a great way for high school and collegiate athletes to keep their bodies strong and fit. However, even those who run track regularly as part of their normal workout routine may require extra training to make a shift to the trail. 

Common Injuries for Cross-Country Runners

Educate yourself about the risks that accompany cross-country running, and know how to reduce the chance of injury on the trail.

Impact injuries

Running can play havoc with your knees and ankles if you aren’t experienced. Impact injuries can cause damage to knees and ankles if you run on hard or changing surfaces. Leaping from soft dirt onto an unforgiving surface can create a shock wave in your joint that does cartilage damage. 

Constant impact can lead to stress fractures in the shins or feet. Running uphill puts unnatural impact pressure on your knees and ankles, and running downhill can stress your hips and cause you to damage your toes.

Repetitive use injuries

Repetitive motions can lead to wear and tear on joints, especially if your tendons and ligaments aren’t properly conditioned for the workout. Remember that pain is an early warning sign of damage, and don’t push through pain as a novice. 

Chronic knee pain could mean you have developed runner’s knee, a common injury that can be identified by an out-of-alignment kneecap (patella). Acute pain in the back of your calf could be Achilles tendinopathy. 

Rotational injuries

Running on a cross-country course means constant changes in direction, forcing you to continually alter your gait. You can twist an ankle, rotate a knee, or pull something in your hip when trying to turn swiftly to avoid an obstacle.  

Fall injuries 

Irregular surfaces can mean risk for acute ankle injury, and slippery surfaces can increase the risk of wrenching your back trying to avoid a fall. Actual falls can mean scrapes, bruises, fractures, injury to your joints, or even a concussion. 

There are several things you can do to avoid injury when running cross country.

  • Warm up with plenty of stretches and a segment of running on level ground. Give your body time to acclimate before jumping straight into a challenging course. 
  • Wear the right shoes. Your footwear can be a literal lifesaver on the trail. Make sure you have good ankle support, arch support, and sole grip.
  • Hydrate regularly. You’ll be less prone to heat exhaustion if you pack a water bottle or electrolyte-rich sports drink. 

 Have you suffered an injury from cross country running? Dr. Strasburger can help. Contact our office for a consultation today.

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