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Last Minute Marathon Injuries – Its Not Too Late!

By now hundreds of people are counting down to the London Marathon, finishing off their training, gearing up for their last long training run, checking their kit and making plans for the morning of the race. As I write this, it’s just 21 days away. By now, you have completed the bulk of your heavy mileage training and will soon begin to taper. So, what happens if an injury raises its ugly head at this late stage? Is it ‘game over’ or can you salvage your plans to complete the race?

Just today, I saw a patient who developed painful swelling on the outside of the knee over the last 2 weeks and was worried that she may have to cancel her first marathon. Luckily, she acted quickly and came to see a specialist to have it examined. Over the course of her training, she developed inflammation of her illio-tibial band where it glues onto the side of the shin bone. This condition is eminently treatable with an ultrasound-guided steroid injection, but it will require her to rest for about 10 days and then do a few short runs prior to the big event. She understands that her marathon may be harder than she expects and that she may have to take some short breaks along the way to complete it. In case it flares up on race day, I suggested she carries some anti-inflammatory gel or cream when she runs. She was most concerned with letting down her charity and supporters who have encouraged her immensely through training. Hopefully, she will succeed and raise a lot of money for a good cause in the process.

Even if you haven’t had preventing injuries at the top of your mind, it isn’t too late to start. Here are a few tips you can implement leading up to the big day:

  • Warm up and stretch before training and on race day
  • Make sure you are well hydrated leading up to and during the race
  • Plan your meals, including dinner the night before and breakfast in the morning
  • Check your trainers for wear and tear, you have time to break in a new pair if they are worn
  • Decide what you will wear and carry with you, and test it out before race day

During the marathon, it is not unusual for aches and pains to develop almost anywhere. This can be avoided by varying your posture and cadence regularly during the run, which offloads weight across different joints, tendons and ligaments. There will also be medical support on the route if you are in difficulty.

At Total Orthopaedics, we provide sports injury management for all body parts – spinal, upper limb, hips, knees and feet. And while a stress fracture or a sudden slipped disc will almost definitely rule out a successful marathon, other common complaints are quite treatable like the illio-tibial band inflammation that my patient above experienced. If you are concerned about an injury, make sure you get it checked out before it could stop you from toeing the line on race day.

And finally, best of luck on the day and I hope you enjoy the experience.

Mr Simon Mellor

Mr Simon Mellor is the Lead for the Hip and Knee Unit at the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust and he has worked in Trauma and Orthopaedic surgery since 1996. He is one of the UK’s most prominent Anterior Approach Hip Replacement Surgeons, having utilised this muscle-sparing technique for hip replacements since 2012.

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