Base Line Testing in Runners and Injury Prevention
Why do we baseline test?
There are common faults and deficiencies seen in many runners which can lead to injuries or underperformance. Common injuries include plantar fasciitis, IT band syndrome, runner’s knee, Achilles tendonitis, and gluteal tendinopathy. By screening for these deficiencies, we can correct or improve upon them to increase performance and reduce the likelihood of injury. The following are 5 simple tests we commonly use to screen runners when they are either injured or even uninjured to identify areas of improvement.
Stay tuned for future posts that dive a little deeper into each test. If you find yourself falling short in some of these tests try out the corrective exercises listed.
Stay tuned for future posts on how to correct these deficiencies.
1. Knee to wall
· What does it test for? The flexibility of the muscles of the ankle including calves, soleus, and the intrinsic foot and ankle muscles.
· Why is this important? Ankle dorsiflexion is important for shock absorption, maintenance of the centre of gravity and posture during running.
Inability to reach 10 cm.
The collapse of the arch.
Inability to maintain kneecap over the first and second toe.
Advice: Calf and soleus stretching and/or ankle dorsiflexion mobilizations.
2. Big Toe Extension
· What does it test for? Ability to extend the first toe.
· Why is it important? Extension of the first toe initiates the “windlass” mechanism. This increases tension on the bottom of the foot, increasing the arch for propulsion. Inability to extend the first toe can lead to overpronation, bunion formation, Achilles injury, metatarsal stress fracture. Approximately 60 degrees or more of extension is needed for normal propulsion
Inability to extend 40-60 degrees.
Advice: Extension stretches and/or “short foot” exercises.
3. Single leg balance
· What does it test for? Ability to statically control the foot/ankle, knee and hip.
· Why is this important? The inability to control the lower limb and pelvis in the single-leg position has been shown to increase the risk of a wide range of injuries.
Inability to maintain a neutral spine
Loss of hip control i.e opposite hip drops.
Loss of trunk control i.e overarching, rotation.
Advice: Glute, foot arch, and core strengthening.
4. 1-inch heel lift
· What does it test for? assess foot stability and strength of the deep muscles of the foot and lower leg
· Why is it important? Those with tib post dysfunction have associated weakness in hip extension and abduction. Weakness or poor control leads to less propulsion capability, susceptibility to injuries including Achilles, plantar fasciitis.
Inability to maintain first toe contact.
· Advice: strengthen lower leg muscles using a calf raise exercise while maintaining a ball between heels.
5. Prone Hip Extension
· What does it test for? Ability to activate the glute muscles (butt muscles!) to extend you’re the hip
· Why is it important? Extending the hip backwards is vital to propel the body forward in running. If there is a decreased range at the hip or decreased strength in the glutes the body is forced to use other strategies for propulsion that may lead to injury
Increased lumbar or back movement.
Increased hamstring activation.
Absent glute contraction.
Advice: Increase the flexibility of the quadriceps and hip muscles and strengthen glutes by performing glute bridges or bird dog exercises.
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