Trail running commonly consists of running over uneven & sometimes loose terrain. One of the common concerns for people starting out trail running is rolling/spraining an ankle. Below are a few exercises and tips to help you get your ankles ready for your next trail run!
Trail running vs road running; how different is it?
Simply put, quite a bit. It is still an area where we have a lot to learn; but the body responds very differently to running over uneven terrain than a smooth, consistent surface. We see an increase in energy expenditure (leading to earlier fatigue), increase in stride variability (both length & step width), increase in leg stiffness & vastly different ankle biomechanics.
So what does this mean to you?
Trail running places very different stresses on the body to running on the road. If you were swimming you wouldn’t only practise breast-stroke & then go compete in freestyle even if they were the same distance. Why? Because it’s a different event. Prepare your body for running off-road; it’s a different event, it places different stresses on the body & the body needs time to adapt.
What can you do get your ankles ready?
It's not possible to completely remove the risk of ankle sprains in any circumstance, but there is a number of systems you can train to reduce your risk.
There are 3 types of exercises you need to do to get your ankles ready:
You require a baseline level of strength of both the muscles and the supporting ligaments & tendons around the ankle and foot. Especially if you have had a previous ankle injury, some of these support structures may be compromised and it is important to ensure they are strong enough to support the body on uneven terrain.
Balance (proprioception) training
As you run along uneven terrain your body needs to gather information about what is happening correctly, quickly interpreted a correct response & then execute that response accurately.
There are a couple of different systems within the body that help you stay upright, balanced & avoid injury as we move.
- Eyes: our eyes have a horizon levelling reflex. In other words, our eyes want the world to stay upright and level.
- Vestibular system: organs within our ears that determine head positioning and movement. As we age, often this system becomes less reliable.
- Information from ligament/muscle/tendon tension & joint positioning: This system lets us know what’s happening through the rest of the body; not just the head.
These systems are important & work together to let the body know what is happening. We want to train each of these systems; firstly in isolation & slowly progress them to a functional activity such as trail running.
Terrain Specific Running
As mentioned above trail running is different to road running. Gradually and consistently increasing trail difficulty will have you running on more technical trails safer than throwing yourself down a steep, loose rocking trail once every 6 months.
Over the coming weeks we will be releasing videos that demonstrate various ways of training the above systems. We will start with basic; easy exercises and progress to harder, more challenging ones.
So stay turned and get those ankles up to scratch this trail running season!
If you have any questions that are specific to your ankles or running, or would like a program tailored to your current ankle stability, we will be more than happy to help.
Well done to everyone who raced this past weekend at the Perth Trail Series: Summer Series - Snakes 'n' Ladders. It was a tough course, but most competitors completed to the course unscathed and in good time. Rowney Chiropractic was there providing free treatment at the event to all competitors and volunteer staff.
Dr Adam Rowney (Chiropractor & Sports Scientist) would like to remind everyone who is interested in participating in these events about the importance or adequate conditioning, the importance of proper hydration (especially if the race is on a hot day), and would recommend everyone competing in trail running events perform some basic "pre-hab" ankle stability exercises to reduce your risk of ankle sprains on the loose, steep terrain.
Once again well done to all the competitors and volunteers who made it a great event!
See you on the trails!
Research Summary: The effect of sports chiropractic manual therapy intervention on the prevention of back pain, hamstring and lower limb injuries in semi-elite Australian Rules footballers: a randomized controlled trial [Hoskins W. (2010)]
This article can be found at: http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2474/11/64
This study looked at whether the addition of a sports chiropractic manual therapy intervention protocol to the current best practice management could prevent and reduce weeks missed due to the occurrence of lower-limb injuries, including hamstring strains in semi-elite AFL players. Compared with other body contact football codes, AFL has the highest rates of non-contact soft tissue injuries with an incident rate of 35% per season at the elite national level.
Two Victorian Football League (VFL) clubs partook in the study during the 2005 season with a total of 59 participants. The players at each club were randomized into two groups, a control group (n=30) and an intervention group (n=29). Both groups received what is currently considered the best practice medical, paramedical and sports science management; including medication, manipulative physiotherapy, massage, strength & conditioning and rehabilitation by club staff. All treatment from club staff was independently administered without restriction to type or number of treatments. The intervention group also received a sports chiropractic approach administered by a single practitioner (including chiropractic/HVLA manipulation and soft-tissue therapies). Each athlete in the treatment group received varied treatment and scheduling as determined by the chiropractor.
The intervention group had a statistically significant reduction in risk or primary lower limb muscle strain injury (3.6% in the intervention group and 27.6% in control group). The intervention group missed 4 matches with a lower limb muscle strain and the control group missed 21 matches. Although there was no statistically significant reduction in knee or hamstring injuries, rates were overall lower in the intervention group. Treatment was predominantly directed at non-local factors and areas, supporting previous evidence that several non-local factors may contribute to lower-limb injury occurrence.
Some care does need to be taken in interpreting these results as 2 of the initial 4 teams withdrawing prior to the study starting means that the required subject numbers were no met. Due to hesitation by the clubs a non-blinded study design was utilised, which means that a placebo effect cannot be ruled out. Since the date of publishing the study has also been retracted from the journal due to issues with the original ethics approval of this study.
Overall there appears the be a trend in the reduction of lower limb injuries with the addition of preventative sports chiropractic intervention to the current best practice multidisciplinary medical, paramedical and sports science management. There also appeared to be a reduction in low-back injuries and complains in the intervention group.
Hoskins W., Pollard H. “The effect of sports chiropractic manual therapy intervention on the prevention of back pain, hamstring and lower limb injuries in semi-elite Australian Rules footballers: a randomized controlled trial”. BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders. (2010); 11:64. accessed 17/06/15 from: http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2474/11/64
I wanted to say a quick congratulations to all the runners who participated in the Perth Trail Series 50km Truth or Consequences & 25km Half Truth race this past Easter weekend Saturday. A special well done goes to those who completed their first Ultra-Marathon!
For those of you who aren't runners, a race longer than a 42km marathon such as this 50km race is classified as an ultra-marathon. Talking to the runners crossing the line, the course consisting of +/- 1680m elevation change was well deserving of the name.
I was there helping with free treatments to those involved. It was a fairly early start with a 6:20am setup and finishing up at 5:00pm. I helped out with rub-downs, soft-tissue work, adjustments, taping & advice. Overall I had a great time helping out.
Well done & I'll see you out on the trails ;)
P.S. If you are interested in trail running I highly recommend the Perth Trail Series runs (www.perthtrailseries.com). A massive amount of effort put into making these runs fun for trail runners of all abilities.
Research Summary: Effect of Chiropractic treatment on hip extension ability and running velocity among young male running athletes [Sandell J. (2008)]
This article can be found at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2682941/pdf/main.pdf
This study was a prospective, randomized, controlled experimental pilot study. During this study 17 healthy, young (17-20yr old) male, middle distance (800-1500m) runners were recruited from local athletic associations. There were randomised into two groups; one group received chiropractic treatment (for a 3-week period) and the other was a control group (no treatment provided).
The treatment group received one treatment per week for 3 weeks, consisting of HVLA manipulation (High Velocity, Low Amplitude manipulation; AKA a Chiropractic adjustment) mainly to the sacroiliac joints and hip joint, but also to other areas deemed by the treating clinician to have a loss of motion.
Pre and post-trial measurements were recorded by a blinded chiropractor (chiropractor who didn't know which group the participant was in) of hip extension, and running speed/acceleration over a 30m distance. Results showed a clinically significant increase in hip extension in the treatment group over the control group. They also showed a slight increase in running velocity of the treatment group, however the difference between the groups was not deemed clinically significant. The researchers concluded that the results of the study implied that chiropractic treatment can enhance hip extension in individuals with hip extension restrictions.
This appears to be a well-executed study; however it is only a pilot study, which means they only used low number of participants (n=17). This makes it is difficult to draw solid conclusions from this particular study but does provide grounds for more in rigorous studies in the future.
Sandell J., Palmgren P., Bjomdahl L. "Effect of chiropractic treatment on hip extension ability and running velocity among young male running athletes". Journal of Chiropractic Medicine (2008); 7, 39-47. accessed 26/02/15 from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2682941/pdf/main.pdf
Down the bottom of each article I will provide links to all available open-source research that will been discussed in each article.
Over the coming weeks and months I will be discussing the growing body of evidence that suggests that Chiropractic care may play a role in enhancing an athletes sports performance, as well as possibly lowering their likelihood of suffering certain types of injuries. It is still an area of limited research, of which more needs to be completed, however the current studies conducted are showing favourable outcomes with chiropractic care.
I plan on providing summaries of each some of the previous research performed in this area; as well as keeping you updated on any of the emerging evidence. If you would like to stay updated please subscribe to my monthly newsletter. In the newsletter I will be providing links to any new blog posts and keep you up to date with what is happening at Rowney Chiropractic.
If you have any specific questions regarding any of the posts feel free to add them to the comments section of the relevant post, as others may have the same question OR if you would like to contact me privately feel free to contact me via the Contact page.
Dr Adam Rowney -