I often hear this phrase when I am treating patients, and it’s one that particularly gets on my British nerves. Commonly a doctor or consultant has told them this, due to a problem with their knees. Often it is said after knee surgery, or scans have revealed cartilage damage or osteo arthritis (OA). Clearly there are certain situations where running could be detrimental, but I find this phrase is branded around way too often. As with any structure in the body, repetitive loading cause damage, and if not given enough recovery time, will eventually lead to failure. It would therefore seem logical that long term participation in running will be detrimental to the knees. However, studies have shown that this is not the case – if it was, wouldn’t all runners get OA?
Runners actually benefit from lower pain and disability levels when compared to sedentary controls, and elite runners have the lowest risk of knee disability of all athlete categories. Not only this, running helps with psychological disorders such as stress and anxiety. There is a poor correlation between x-ray findings and joint pain, so just because a scan shows damage it doesn’t mean it is the end of the road. Consulting with a physiotherapist allows identification of obstacles and strategies to overcome them.
So let’s beat the stigma that running causes long term damage, and reap the rewards running has to offer.