Trail running is increasing in popularity, and it is important to recognise that it stresses the body in different ways when compared to road running. This opens the door to the possibility of sustaining injuries due to the new forces exerted on the body.
The majority of injuries related to trail running occur in the lower leg, mainly in the knee and ankle. More than 70% are overuse injuries, with ankle sprains being the most common acute injury. Factors which influence injury include poor neuromotor control balance-coordination, running through fatigue, and abnormal kinematics on variable terrain.
Prevention is always better than cure, so before you head out onto the trails, think prehabilitation. You will need to prepare your body for the rigours of trail running. The unsteady ground, poor ground traction, relentless up and down hills, and going over and under tree trunks and foliage, your body needs preparation when facing all of these variables. Consider the following training methods to reduce your chances of injury:
Dynamic flexibility: high knees, a-skips, hip circles, walking lunges, hip swings
Neuromuscular strengthening and balance: toe grabs, one-foot balance, single-leg bridges, Romanian deadlift, squats, Bosu bird-dogs
Plyometrics: single-leg hops, jump squats, jump lunges, tuck jumps.
Patient education is also a key factor when the early stages of injury present themselves. Knowing more, will empower individuals into recognising injuries, and preventing them from becoming more serious and chronic.
Trail running is a healthy addition to other sports and hobbies, not just physically, but also mentally.