Running places significant stress on the knee and ankles as well as the supporting ligaments which results to ligament injuries. The ligament groups that are affected while running include the cruciate ligaments that connect the knee bone to the thighbones and shin.
Other ligaments connect the ankle bones to the shin bones. If these ligaments are stretched beyond their limits, a sprained ankle develops. Being able to recognize and prevent ligament injuries such as stretches and tears can help the individual stay healthy while running.
Possible causes of ligament injuries
Most cases of ligament injuries due to running can occur if the leg is twisted. If the foot is planted in a pothole or slipping on uneven surfaces, it can twist the knee or ankle which results to an anterior cruciate ligament or ACL injury. The ligament is responsible for providing stability to the knee which is why it is quickly damaged among runners.
Poor running form can also contribute to ligament injuries especially if the individual runs with the legs inward slightly. The medial collateral ligament or MCL are uncommon since the injury typically results from exterior impact to the joint. Nevertheless, overuse due to frequent running can worsen previous injuries and trigger pain.
Symptoms of ligament injuries
If the ACL is injured, it is characterized by a popping sound in the knee joint. The individual might not initially experience pain but within a few hours of injury, the knee can become swollen and painful to move. Take note that the joint can feel unsteady which is similar to having difficulty in supporting the body weight.
Ligament injuries specifically to the ankle are characterized by pain, swelling and inability to support weight. Depending on the severity of the injury, injuries to the MCL are characterized by pain, swelling and tenderness at the knee.
The prevention of ligament tears entails proper warm-up to avoid unnecessary tearing or broadening of the ligaments. It is recommended to engage in walking at least 5 minutes prior to a running session and then stretch out the muscles in the leg to relax up the tight ligaments.
It is vital to use supportive shoes that must be replaced every 300-500 miles. The muscles must be allowed to rest in between the running sessions to allow the ligaments to heal. The running sessions must be alternated with low-impact activities such as swimming and cycling to place minimal strain on the ligaments.
Management of ligament injuries
If an individual suspects that he/she has a ligament injury, utilize the RICE method (rest, ice, compression, elevation) on the affected ligaments. It is vital to rest to avoid additional stress on the joints.
The application of ice on the affected area can reduce the swelling while compression using a compression bandage around the knee or ankle can minimize the swelling. Elevating the leg can promote the flow of blood back to the heart. If the injury does not respond to over-the-counter treatment, it is vital to seek medical care. In case of severe ligament injuries, the doctor might recommend surgery.