Help your junior cross-country runner stay injury-free this winter

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If your child is a cross-country champ in the making, it’s the winter months when they’ll be really putting in the hours to prepare for the season’s competitions. The combination of increased training in addition to running on the uneven terrain typical of cross-country can make injuries much more likely.

That said, the majority of running injuries are caused by training errors and can be easily avoided, as outlined in this blog by KTB physio and keen runner, Ali Cann.

Here, we look at how you can help your young runner avoid and manage some of the most common injuries to help them excel at this varied and exciting sport.

Common injuries include: 

  • Plantar fasciitis: this presents as pain in the arch/sole of the foot that occasionally occurs with over training in combination with weakness, tightness, or poor biomechanics.
  • Patellar femoral pain: with this injury, pain is felt around the knee or kneecap typically from muscle imbalances and potentially poor tracking of the patella. Known as ‘runner’s knee’, it’s one of the most common running injuries and is covered in detail here.
  • Shin splints: also known as ‘medial tibial stress syndrome’, this is pain felt on the front of the lower leg with activity (usually running). It’s typically caused by overuse, resulting from tightness in the ankle, weakness in the muscles in the lower leg, or poor biomechanics.

How are they treated?
Stretches and exercises that strengthen the foot and lower leg muscles are essential and include toe exercises, heel and toe raises, squats, bridges, progressing to standing and single leg exercises such as lunges.

All of these injuries require strengthening initially but taping, massage, stretching and some mobilisations can ease the pain, meaning sufferers benefit more from the recommended exercises.

A physio assessment of a runner’s gait is highly recommended to identify flaws in their movement.
Find out all about our gait analysis – what it is, how we do it and why it helps.

We mention this acronym often but PRICE – Protection, Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation – is a vital part of recovery.

How can these injuries be avoided?
Running on varied surfaces is important and particularly beneficial to this sport as the nature of cross country means it covers all terrains. Ensure your child doesn’t wear old running shoes for too long. They should add lower leg strengthening exercises to their training, such as those suggested for the treatment of the problem. Pilates is invaluable for overall strength and mobility.

Try to keep an eye on your child’s training regime and make sure they don’t make rapid changes. As with any sport, a proper warm-up, cool down and stretch after running is essential.

Having said all this, we understand that young people are not always keen on taking mum or dad’s advice!

If you think your young runner would benefit from some professional tips, feel free to drop in with them for a session at one of our clinics.