Be Smart To Stay Safe
Ed Kornoelje DO, Metro Health Sports Medicine
There has been a shift in the types of athletes I’ve been seeing in the office lately—more broken or twisted body parts from football, volleyball and soccer players, and fewer runners with sore legs and feet. This is the “quiet time” in the weeks leading up to big races—this time of year around here it is Chicago, Detroit or (my fave) the Metro Health Grand Rapids Marathon. Runners have trained for weeks and months, and are ignoring the things they would normally go to the doctor for. The last thing they want to hear right now is “You are injured—you cannot run!” Here are a few things to keep in mind leading up to your race.
First, be smart—don’t ignore things that may derail you on race day. There is an expo the day before the marathon, and I spend most of my day there, going over last minute training issues and giving out advice. I can guarantee one thing will happen: a runner (often brought over by a significant other or friend) will limp up asking what can be done to get them through the 13.1 or 26.2 miles the next day. We usually come up with some type of plan which usually ends with “there are doctors and nurses at every aid station, don’t be afraid to stop and have it checked again.” (I don’t like to tell people not to run either, so you will rarely hear those words come out of my mouth. Sometimes it’s the only way.) Some runners finish, others do not, and I always want to tell them that if they had come to see us just a few weeks earlier, we would have had more time to nail down a diagnosis and formulate a plan, even just two or three weeks before the race.
Second, if you cannot (or will not) go to a doctor in the few weeks leading up to a race, here are a two things that may help settle things down: ice and relative rest. If something is sore (a shin, foot, ankle or knee) put ice on it, 10-15 minutes 2-4 times a day. Ice is your friend. It is hard to over-do ice (I did have a patient who left it on too long and developed a mild case of frostbite), and it does a great job of calming down inflammation. Too much inflammation/irritation may cause an alteration in gait, worsening the problem that already exists, or leading to a new one. Relative rest is the concept of altering your activity (by adding swimming or biking) on some or all of your running days to let a problem heal up. You are still doing something to get/stay in shape, but resting the injured area. You may not know exactly what the injury is, but these two things can help get you through.
Finally, if you are able and willing to go and see someone, make an educated choice. Even as you read this, there is still time to get a diagnosis and make a plan, but you need to find someone who has the expertise to guide you through this process. At the risk of sounding self-serving, a primary care sports medicine doc is a great choice (and at Metro Health Sports Medicine we happen to have a few). But don’t just take my word for it. In a Runner’s World (July 2011) article regarding finding the right care, the author noted “Physicians with added training in sports medicine are often the best place to start . . . and can give you a comprehensive evaluation that includes diagnostic tests, from blood counts to bone scans to MRIs.” After doing this for 15 years, I see the value of getting proper care from sports medicine trained physicians. You go to a specialist for other problems—why not your sports injuries?
Good luck in the next few weeks as you begin your taper (love that word) to get ready for your run. The InjuryWise clinic brought to you by Metro Health Sports Medicine continues at the Grand Rapids Gazelle Sports location every Wednesday at 6 PM. If you have any questions about injuries or running in general, come on out and we will be happy to take a look at you. Also, our Saturday AM hours continue at the Metro Health Sports Medicine Center in the Spartan Stores YMCA—go to www.metrohealth.net or call 252-SPRT (252-7778) for more information.