Summer Brings Increased Risk Of Orthopaedic Injury

Armen Hareyan's picture
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As the beach season gets underway, many people will bring their workout regiment with them to the shore. And that means running along the beach, in the sand. It is commonly thought that the soft sand better cushions the lower extremity joints, making running on the beach even more beneficial. However an orthopaedic specialist at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital warns this may actually put more strain on your muscles and joints.

"Though running is an extremely common activity, it is not one performed perfectly at all times. As the summer months begin, running outside, particularly while on vacation at the shore or on the beach, remains one of the most popular activities. But running on the beach comes with risks," says Michael Ciccotti, M.D., chief of Sports Medicine at the Rothman Institute at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, and head team physician for the Philadelphia Phillies and St. Joseph's University.

Rarely consistently smooth and flat, the beach surface changes drastically from extremely soft to hard. In addition, the beach often slopes dramatically as it approaches the water. "Running on this sloped surface can especially predispose an individual to injury," warns Dr. Ciccotti.

"As you run on an irregular, inconsistent surface like sand, the forces that go through the feet, ankles, knees and hips vary dramatically and can predispose an athlete to injury in any one of these body parts." He advises, "The ideal surface to run on is a relatively flat, smooth, resilient and reasonably soft surface such as a track or jogging trail."

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The most common injuries from running in sand include:

Tendonitis of the knee (an inflammation of the tendon either directly above or directly below the knee cap); sprains of any one of the four ligaments in the knee which stabilize the knee joint; or injury to either one of the C-shaped meniscal cushion pads in the knee joint. Irritation of the fibrous connective tissue at the sole of the foot in the region of the arch; plantar fasciitis (heel spur); sprains of the ankle ligaments on either side of the ankle; or stress fractures of the foot or ankle. Additionally, incomplete hairline breaks in the lower leg bones, foot bones or thigh bone may occur. These injuries most often occur with progressive soreness, swelling or stiffness in the involved area.

Dr. Ciccotti says, "Running on the beach is a great activity with tremendous health and psychological benefits. We just need to be extra careful to remain free of injury."

He recommends the following preventative measures to avoid injuries:

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