Obstacle Course Racing is one of the latest crazes in Canada for the past few years and one with substantial health benefits associated. With an urge to pretend you are a kid again, jump in mud puddles, crawl on the ground and generally get really, really messy there are bound to be some bumps along the way. WIth a wide range of age and fitness level for people participating in these events I have seen a few injuries in my office due to Obstacle Course Racing. This isn’t to say it’s an overly dangerous or risk excessive activity, but with the constant variety of terrain and fatigue being a factor there is always potential for something to go wrong.
As with my last two blogs we went over how to stretch as well as core exercises that you should be doing to help prepare you for the an upcoming event. Even with the best of intentions there are still common injuries that can happen during an OCR event. The goal of this blog is to go over the injuries, and how best to identify it, and what you should do in the event that this happens during an event.
The Ankle Sprain
Ankle sprains commonly occur with a forced inversion (foot twists inward) creating a strain on the outside of the ankle. This forced inversion causes a strain or potentially a tear of the ligaments on the outside of your ankle that help to keep it stable. This can happen with a minor ankle roll where you get a sudden shot of pain, but afterwards your ankle is ok to continue to run on pain-free. Or you can have a rupture of the ligaments typically with an audible “pop” sound. If this occurs it’s best to stop the event and get ice on your ankle and have it assessed ASAP. Running through the pain will only cause further damage and delay recovery. The best way to prevent this type of an injury is to make sure you always have good footing, and if you are getting tired and start to stumble a bit, you should slow down your pace.
Hamstring strains are one of the more common muscles to injure during any running event. You ultimately can strain any muscle in the body, and I have seen some pretty unbelievable ones, this is the most common. With the amount of uphill and downhill running during these events the stress put on this large muscle group on the back of your thigh can be a lot. Unlike an ankle sprain, you don’t need to have a specific trauma to your leg. Usually you will feel your hamstring strain closer to the end of an event when you are fatigued and your running form starts to suffer. The pain is usually felt high up in your hamstring close to your ischial tuberosity (sit bones). If you strain the muscle bad enough you will have difficulty pulling your leg forwards or backwards due to pain. In this event you should be stopping the event. Ice, rest and proper assessment are required. The best way to prevent a hamstring strain is to make sure you have done adequate stretching leading up to the event, and that your flexibility is at an all time high. You should also focus on foot placement when running downhill so that you don’t have a sudden misstep that could cause an injury.
The last injury to discuss here is one of the most common that I see in my office from OCR racing. WIth the majority of workforce sitting all day with their hands down on a keyboard or holding their mobile phone in their lap checking on the number of likes they got on their last mud pic. It’s no surprise that when we have to reach up above our heads to pull ourselves up a ladder, or grab a friend’s arm to help pull us up an obstacle that that there is potential for a shoulder injury. Most often it’s just a minor ache after the event, and the fix going forward should be a pull up program to get our shoulders strong for the next event. However the odd time when a one handed “Cliff Hanger” type maneuver is required as you lunge into the void hoping you make the gap. This can lead to a rotator cuff strain, or worst case scenario tear. A sudden pain is usually felt and inability to raise your arm afterwards. This is a good reason to stop the event, get your shoulder checked and some Ice applied. The best way to prevent any shoulder injury is to start a pull-up program well enough ahead of the event that you are strong enough to pull up your own body weight.
These are common injuries but not an exhaustive list. The best way to prevent any injury is to be proactive ahead of time and get the strength and flexibility so that you are ready for your next OCR event. Stretching and strength training are the best accessory work to get you ready for an OCR event like Mud Hero. Be mindful of your footing out there, and use prepping for an OCR as a lifelong springboard to better health.