Vanderbilt Sports Medicine Doctors Offer Safety Tips for Marathon Runners

“I have been seeing many overuse injuries in clinic related to training for the marathon or half marathon, including primarily knee injuries, IT band syndrome, stress fractures, and other lower extremity issues,” said Rachel Brewer, M.D., clinical instructor in Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

“Many of the people I see are novices running their first half or full marathon, and most of them are following training plans and think they have to stick to it exactly. But running is an individual sport and you have to do what it is appropriate for you. My best piece of advice is to listen to your body.”

About half of all running injuries occur in the knee, and overuse injuries predominate. Having a previous injury makes a runner more likely to be injured again.

A runner herself, with 15 marathons and five ultra marathons under her belt, Brewer offers these tips to avoid injury on race day.

Before the race:
• Stretch and do a short warm-up, especially if it is a cold morning.
• Apply sunscreen and lubricants to prevent chafing.

During the race:
• Listen to your thirst mechanism and alternate drinking water and sports drinks. Proper hydration will help you avoid muscle cramps.
• Proper nutrition is also important, and most people need about 100-200 calories per hour they are on the course.
• Unless you have a known stress fracture, it is unlikely you will get an injury that will require you to stop racing. It is fine to push through joint pain and muscle cramps until the end of the race.
• If you experience chest pain, stop immediately and call for medical attention.

After the race:
• Keep moving. If you sit or lay down, blood may pool in the legs and cause you to pass out.
• Stretch, but stay on your feet.
• Apply ice to any sore areas.
• Drink water and eat a good meal with a mix of protein and carbohydrates.
• Seek medical attention for any persistent pain with weight bearing or joint swelling.
• Take time to rest before exercising again, especially if you have joint issues or a previous injury.

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