Friday 26 October 2012

Size as a Factor in Running Injuries

Does size make a difference in whether you will get a running injury? Just to set the scene I am quite big for a runner (or even a person) being six feet two inches tall and around fourteen and half stone (203 lbs). In most people’s minds I don't think I fit into the category of the standard sized runner, as you can see from the picture below:

I have often wondered whether my size will make a difference as to the likelihood of sustaining running injuries. Surely the bigger a person is then the more stress they will put on their body and the more often they will get injured. I have lost count over the years of the people that have told me that they are too big to take up running. Is this a myth or is there some truth in this theory?

When reading Tread Lightly recently I noticed a comment that stated that when you run for each time your foot contacts the ground the forces that are applied are between 2.2 to 2.7 times your own body weight. For me then that is between 447 to 548 lbs which according to the net is greater than the weight of a baby elephant! Weight is an important factor in force so the heavier you are then the higher the force and as such you are probably at a greater risk of a running injury.

It was also interesting to read a study on the links between weight and injuries carried out on 848 novice runners preparing for a 4 mile (6.7 km) race. The study found that of those who were overweight (BMI of over 25) 25% suffered an injury to their back or legs causing a restriction in running for a week whereas for those who were classed as having a normal weight only 15% suffered the same type of injuries.

However weight is not the only factor that needs to be considered when evaluating the risk of contracting a running injury. An interesting study looked at the factors that affect the risk of lower extremity injuries in runners. The study found that increased training distances and history of past injuries are the key risk factors for injury. The study even goes to suggest that overweight individuals are less prone to running injuries, although this is more likely to be linked to the fact that a heavier runner will undertake less training than those who are lighter.

Does Runner size make a difference?  

I think what we can take from the above is that yes as bigger runner you have a slightly higher risk of injury than a smaller runner. However the key factors that will mean that you get hurt or not are the amount of miles that you run and whether you have had past injuries. What should also be considered is that as you increase your running, as long as you don’t eat more calories than you are burning, you will lose weight so reducing the significance of weight as a factor. So all but the very big should not get worried about size when it comes to injuries and running. I received an inspirational tweet the other day from @teamrunner4life which is a good place to finish:
"There are no age, size, or speed requirements to be a runner. You are as fit & fast as you feel. The only excuses are the ones you create”
How about you what are your views do you think your size makes a difference to injuries?