Katie Rizzone, M.D., M.P.H., associate professor of Orthopaedics, views running as a sport that’s accessible to many people of all ages and abilities.
“Not everyone can dunk or skate, but running is an option even for people who don’t consider themselves athletes,” she said.
As a result, Rizzone works with runners in all walks of life, from adults who participate recreationally to middle and high school cross country competitors. Despite this widespread participation, the actual sports science knowledge on running is underdeveloped.
“Runners are often left by the wayside in sports medicine, and there’s not a lot of good science out there on proper form,” she said.
Rizzone, along with her colleague Jillian Santer - a licensed physical therapist and the coordinator of the Running and Foot & Ankle Rehabilitation Teams – are trying to reverse these trends through a new clinic created specifically for runners. Called the UR Medicine Running Clinic, this center focuses on an approach toward running form that takes into account the orientation of the whole body.
“It’s about physics: your whole leg is connected, and any injury – whether it’s tendonidis or a stress fracture – won’t get better if you don’t identify the biomechanical cause,” said Rizzone. “You might have a knee injury and focus exclusively in that area, but the actual cause could be an asymmetrical hip motion or poor ankle flexion.”
At the clinic, Rizzone and Santer can work with any runner – amateur or elite - to perform a comprehensive examination of technique. This includes getting runners on a treadmill and performing a gait analysis - a method for identifying biomechanical abnormalities in the way you walk or run – and scoring runners on 20 to 30 different criteria. Film and photos are taken to help runners understand which parts of their form need correcting.
“Around 75 percent of the time we can find something to correct on the treadmill, and there’s rarely one issue we see across the board, so most runners have unique form problems that can be worked out,” said Santer.
To treat injuries, the UR Medicine Running Clinic utilizes innovative technology for recovery. The Alter G Anti-Gravity Treadmill is one tool that allow patients to gradually restore running activity without pain. The Alter G has been vital for helping adult patient Emily Sherwood recover from a hamstring injury.
“It allowed me to get back into running without putting pressure on my hamstring,” she said.
The clinic is partnered with multiple local high schools and colleges, and there’s lots of room for growth to work with more schools as awareness spreads. Similar to other sports, Rizzone believes that many youth cross country and distance running programs are at risk of overtraining their athletes.
“A common approach from a lot of programs is running their kids as much as possible, but many of them will get hurt at 70 miles a week,” said Rizzone.
Typical injuries like shin splints, tendonitis, and stress fractures frequently result from lack of adequate recovery time, according to Rizzone.
“I would like programs to know that I could give them a more efficient runner and a decreased risk of injury if we look at their form biomechanically, let them recover, and provide cross-training with running, swimming, elliptical, and bike exercises,” she said.