Injury Prevention for Runners

Whether you are an experienced runner or just beginning an exercise program, our sports medicine experts want to remind you that a few simple steps can help you prevent running-related injuries.

A rapid increase in the distance or the intensity of your run is a common training error. It is best to gradually increase your intensity or your distance by no more than 10 to 15 percent each week. You should not increase both during the same week. 

Keeping your muscles balanced also is important. Muscle imbalances are commonly caused by insufficient flexibility in the hamstrings and the iliotibial (IT) band. Insufficient strength in the hip, hamstrings, and ankles can lead to injury.

If you often run on a track, you should alternate the direction of your run each day. Run on relatively soft surfaces, such as grass or trails, rather than running on the road, and avoid excessive speed or hill workouts.

Allow for adequate rest, proper nutrition, and hydration between workouts. Most importantly, listen to your body; pain or inflammation can be signs of injury.

If you believe you have a running-related injury, contact
your doctor or call the experts at UPMC Sports Medicine
at 412-432-3600.

Injury Spotlight: Stress Fractures

From fatigue and cramps, to sprains and strains, most athletes are familiar with the consequences of pushing themselves too hard. What they might not know is that failing to maintain an appropriate level of physical exertion can lead to broken bones as well. Stress fractures, while not as debilitating as acute fractures, are a serious threat to athletes.

While the exact cause of stress fractures is not known, they are commonly thought to result from the “overloading” of bones. One way in which this can happen, says David Stone, MD, a physician for UPMC Sports Medicine, is through a sudden, intense muscle contraction.

Another common cause is the repetitive overuse of one or more of the muscles. When this happens, the bone underneath the muscle fails to adapt to the overuse, and breaks.

Dr. Stone explains, “At the hip and foot, the skeletal muscles act like shock absorbers. If they are ineffective or overwhelmed, then the bones have to absorb that shock. If the bone is not permitted to recover, there is a danger of it breaking down.”

In the early stages, the fracture is likely to exhibit itself only during activity. The tissue around the bone becomes swollen, tender, and painful. Eventually, these symptoms may become constant and get considerably worse at night. Due to the nature of the injury, the onset of symptoms is usually gradual over a two to three week period. 

Often the best way for clinicians to diagnose a stress fracture is through a bone scan. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is commonly used in conjunction with bone scans to diagnose stress fractures.

Once the injury has been diagnosed as a stress fracture, the best method of treatment is a period of rest and rehabilitation that allows the injured bone to follow its natural course of repair and strengthening. For most stress fractures, this period will last anywhere from four to eight weeks.

For the serious athlete, a certain amount of musculoskeletal stress is unavoidable. For the athlete who wants to avoid injuries that can sideline them for months at a time, follow three simple rules.

  • retain strength and muscle tone
  • allow the body to rest between workouts
  • gradually increase intensity and workout length

The UPMC Sports Performance program can help you prevent injuries while improving your athletic performance. For more information, visit us online or call 412-432-3600.

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Simple Steps to Prevent Pain During Riding

Now that the weather is getting warmer, many people are out enjoying the numerous parks and trails Pittsburgh has to offer. One way to enjoy the outdoors is by riding a bicycle, but for many individuals this activity is cut short by pain.

UPMC Cycling Performance suggests a few simple steps to help prevent pain before it even begins. This guide is only a reference. If you have ongoing pain and or numbness, you need to consult your physician.

  • Start with a level saddle seat. The angle should be changed for comfort, but only a maximum of three degrees up or down. In order to change the angle of the saddle, you can loosen the bolts under the saddle and adjust them to the proper angle.
  • Find the right seat height. For many cyclists, their seat is positioned too low, which reduces power and efficiency. It can also lead to pain in the front of the knee. A good starting seat height can be achieved by putting your bike on a stationary trainer or positioning your bike in a doorway in order to hold yourself upright. In order to get the correct position, raise your saddle until, as you pedal backwards with your heels on the pedal platform, your knee is completely straight at the bottom of the pedal stroke. If you can rock your hips side to side, then the saddle is too high. In order to raise or lower your saddle, loosen the bolt on the side of the frame on the base of the seat post, and raise or lower accordingly. You may have to do this several times to get the right height.
  • Consider the reach and height of your handlebars. If the handlebars are too close you may feel too cramped, however, if the handlebars are too far away you may feel stretched. Visit a good bike shop and ask about options for your situation.

Some points to remember: 

  • If you do not feel comfortable adjusting your bicycle yourself, ask a bicycle shop for help.
  • Never raise any bike part (seat post, stem) higher than the manufacturer’s recommendations, as it could lead to injury. Most parts are marked with a limit line that, if exposed, indicates that the part is beyond the usable length. It is important to follow all manufacturers’ warnings.
  • Remember that it is early in the season and you may not be as flexible as you were at the end of last season. This can greatly affect bike fit and you may have to readjust your bike later in the season.

For a medical-based bicycle fit or questions regarding any of the above pointers, contact UPMC Cycling Performance at 412-432-3770. 

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Selecting a Sport Camp for Your Young Athlete

When selecting a sport camp there are a number of considerations that should be addressed prior to committing to a camp or clinic. These considerations should help in both evaluating and choosing a camp or clinic. In the end, going to camp should be a positive and rewarding experience for both the young athlete and parents.

It is important to get the most for the money you spend. When calculating the cost of a camp you need to consider the cost of transportation both to and from the camp. Expenses such as hotels, meals, and equipment and supplies will need to be calculated in order to determine the total cost of the camp.

Staff and Organization
The organization that is hosting the camp, as well as the staff that is running the camp, should have the appropriate accreditation for the activities that are offered. It is important to know who will be working with your athlete. Ask for the biography information of any instructor as well as the background of the organization. Use trustworthy sources such as a league organization or the national governing body for the sport.

Skill Level
The skill level of the camp should be challenging for the athlete. An athlete’s overall camp experience will be limited if he or she is bored because the camp is too easy, of if the athlete is frustrated because of the difficulty of the camp.

Motivation Level of Athlete
The motivation of the athlete should match the intensity level of the camp. In some instances athletes go to camps more for social reasons instead of athletic development. In these cases, a less intense camp may be more appropriate. The athletes will have a chance to socialize while still gaining valuable sport skills.

Participant-to-Coach Ratio
The participant-to-coach ratio and individualized attention is important for a positive overall camp experience. In larger camps, instructors tend to spend less one-on-one time with the athletes. Ask the organizers of the camp about approximate group sizes, stations, and time allotted for stations.

Fundamental Skills
The fundamental skills being taught will help determine the level and intensity of the camp. One athlete may want to learn more about the entire sport, and therefore a camp that gives athletes a chance to participate at every position would be most appropriate. However, other athletes may want a more directed camp for individual development within the sport; therefore a position-specific camp would be most appropriate for that athlete.

The camp should list any special equipment that they will be providing or that may be needed by the athlete in order to fully participate in the camp. Most athletes who specialize in a position or sport have their own equipment. However, athletes that may be beginning a new sport may not have or may not know what equipment is necessary for participation. If the equipment needed is not listed, contact the director of the camp for more information.

Awards and Giveaways
Awards and giveaways sometimes overshadow the skills being taught. Items such as T-shirts and trophies may make a camp more appealing to younger athletes. For many older athletes even more valuable than giveaways would be the exposure to college coaches or professional scouts.

Return Rate
The return rate — or the number of athletes returning to the camp each year — is an indication of the camp’s success. If a large number of athletes are returning the following year, it’s an indication that athletes find value in the program and camp faculty.

Location and Accommodations
The location of the camp and the availability of accommodations are important factors to consider when choosing a camp. Depending on when the sessions take place, it may not be feasible to drive to and from camp each day, especially if the athletes must drive themselves. Other arrangements, such as a sponsor family or on-location housing, may be necessary. If the camp is an overnight camp, the location of housing, such as in hotels or dorms, is important to know. In addition to housing location, it also is important to know who is in charge of the supervision, what activities are planned, and what accommodations are provided in the rooms. 

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UPMC Sports Performance Presents Empowering the Female Athlete Conference

Today, more young women than ever are participating in competitive sports. While participation brings a variety of physical, mental, and emotional benefits, it also means an increased chance of injury, particularly for female athletes. In fact, girls are more likely than boys who play the same sport to tear their anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).

The Empowering the Female Athlete conference — which will run from Sunday, June 14, through Friday, June 19 — is designed to share with female athletes, ages 12 to 18, the latest techniques for preventing injuries and the basics in mental training, nutrition, leadership, and team building. Through keynote speakers, educational sessions, and performance training, UPMC Sports Medicine will share its more than 20 years of experience with local female athletes to focus on health, safety, and performance.

Each daily training session will include a comprehensive agenda created by professionals in the field of sports medicine and performance-based training designed to decrease the risk of injuries. Areas of focus will include strength; flexibility; plyometric jump training; core training; speed, agility, and quickness training; running mechanics; and ACL injury prevention. The conference will emphasize personal development in young women with daily knowledge and team-based programs, including nutritional needs for young active women, mental training, leadership skills, and team building. Each day will feature keynote addresses by experienced professionals, including Missie Berteotti, a million- dollar winner on the LPGA tour from 1986 to 1999, and currently the teaching pro at St. Clair Country Club; as well as Drs. Robin West, Jeanne Doperak, Susan Jordan, Tanya Hagen, and Vonda Wright from UPMC Sports Medicine.

For more information or to register, visit Our Events.

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Calendar of Events

Empowering the Female Athlete
The Empowering the Female Athlete conference — which will run from Sunday, June 14, through Friday, June 19 — is designed to share with female athletes, ages 12 to 18, the latest techniques for preventing injuries and the basics in mental training, nutrition, leadership, and team building. Cost for the conference is $299 per athlete. Click here for more information or to register.

High School Athletic Training Aide Workshop
UPMC Sports Medicine is offering its annual workshop for high school students interested in a career in sports medicine or who want to enhance their skills used in the high school athletic training room. The workshop will be held at The Ellis School from Tuesday, August 4, through Thursday, August 6. Registration is $55 (add $10 for optional CPR/AED certification) and includes breakfast, lunch, course and lab materials, and a T-shirt. Deadline for registration is Saturday, July 11. Contact Jesse Townsend at for more information.

ACL Injury Prevent for All Sports
UPMC Sports Performance presents this ACL injury prevention program for athletes ages 13 to 18. The eight-week program is held two days a week at both UPMC Sports Performance locations — South Side and Gibsonia. The South program runs from Monday, June 22, to Friday, August 14, and the North program runs from Tuesday, June 23, to Friday, August 14. Cost of the program is $399 per athlete.

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