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Endurance Athlete Consulting covers a broad range of topics regarding human performance in sport, sport related injuries, and rehabilitation. If there is something specific you would like to inquire about, please feel free to email me at: bradsenska@yahoo.com.

I am available for speaking engagements and in services regarding aspects about injury, injury prevention, training for specific competitive events, injury treatment protocols, and workplace ergonomic assessments for a healthier work environment.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Age and Plantar Fascitis or "itis" In General!

Time and time again, I here people talking about an injury that they feel shouldn't have occured because they've been participating in a specific sport all their lives.  It's the same comment, "my body is used to this.  This shouldn't have happened!"  In fact, it was recent that my brother-n-law voiced an injury he just acquired when playing soccer.  He's 49 years old, has been playing soccer nearly all his life, and doesn't understand why all of a sudden he strained his quadriceps muscle.  He explained that it was a simple kick.  He was standing still when he attempted to kick the ball over several players that were coming at him.  I asked him if he does strength training for his soccer and he said no.  He then vigorously stated why he shouldn't have to strength train since it's something he'd been doing for so long.  Time and time again it's the same cliche, "I've been doing this all my life, why now?".  I tried to explain to him in terms that he could wrap his head around but it didn't sound like he was buying it. 

It is a fact that with age, even though a person has been doing a particular activity for a long time, your muscles and connective tissue will atrophy and experience injuries that otherwise in a younger person would be benign. This is due to two specific events.  One, as we age we begin to lose collagen and elastin in our muslces and connective tissue.  This means that our muslce and connective tissue becomes more brittle.  It doesn't spring back to shape as it would if we were younger and the muscle were more elastic or pliable.  This results in injured tendons and strained muscles.  Second, with age, and with prolonged repetitive activity, we set ourselves up for overuse injuries.  It makes sense doesn't it?  If we've already lost elasticity in our soft tissue, and we continue to repeat the same forceful movements, then something eventually is going to have to give.  Strength training will significantly reduce the loss of muscle elasticity/pliability and nearly put a stop to muscle atrophy! "Jerry, look at me, I'm huge!" (you know, Seinfeld)

The solution to the majority of these aging pathologies/injuries is to improve the strength of the muscles or soft tissue involved with a repetitive activity.  You must apply the "overload principle".  You need to condition a muscle beyond what it is going to be used for in your usual activities and sports!  It's a proven peer reviewed fact that strength training can easily and significantly reduce the amount of muscle and tendon injury by performing specific strength training exercises.  I'll put it even more plainly in the equation below:

Aging = muscle atrophy = muscle weakness = tendon weakness = injury!

There are other details involved with this equation, but the major intent of it, I believe, has been made.

As I've said before, the plantar fascia is a very large tendon.  This tendon originates with several muscle groups in the leg such as the calf muscle or gastrocnemius, the soleus, the flexors of the toes, the posterior tibialis muscle etc.  These muscle groups need to be used beyond that which is required by your sport to keep them healthy and injury free.  Running, running, running, and more track work just won't do it!

Plug some strength training in on your light workout days or recovery days.  I promise that this won't mess up your personal race or event goals!  It will only improve them!  The strength training should incorporate movement in all planes and not just forward and backward (what is called the sagittal plane).  Perform lateral and roational movements especially in the hips and torso! 

If your sport involves a lot of running, and you've had a history of foot pain or plantar fasciitis, then denying the fact that you are not affected by age is going to set yourself up for a potential injury that may keep you side lined for quite some time.  I say quite some time because with age, you also heal more slowly than someone in their teens or 20's.

Happy New Years!!

Happy Bipeding!

Brad Senska, PT, DPT, BS, ASTYM.
bradsenska@yahoo.com