Injuries, New Leg Muscles, and Breast Pain in Runners

February 27, 2016

Hi all!

Every other week I’ll be giving a quick overview of the new and exciting running research that piqued my interest.  See what the intrepid science of running community is up to!

Runners who have never been injured land more softly

Strength of evidence: 2/5

Strength of effect: 2/5

Runners develop injuries on a pretty regular basis, and ideas about how to avoid injury are a dime a dozen.  One hypothesis is that landing more softly can reduce the risk of injury by decreasing the amount of force that the leg has to absorb.  However good tests of this hypothesis are few and far between.  In this prospective study (meaning that participants were identified ahead of time and then tracked), 249 female runners were grouped by their injury rate, and their vertical landing force while running was measured.  The researchers found that runners who were never injured landed with significantly less force than runners who had diagnosed injuries.  While this study is some of the first evidence that landing force is related to injury rate, the number of runners who were never injured was very small (21 out of 249 total), and in general, there was no significant relationship between injury rate and landing force.

New leg muscle found!

Strength of evidence: 2/5

Strength of effect: N/A

The human body has been poked and prodded inside and out for thousands of years, but it still seems to have many secrets in store for researchers.  Most recently, scientists have found that a muscle has been hiding all along in the upper leg.  Hiding in between the vastus lateralis and the vastus intermedium (two of the quadriceps muscles), the new muscle has been dubbed the tensor VI, and was found in all 26 cadaver legs that researchers dissected.  They also identified four different versions of the muscle: intermediate type (found in 11/26 legs), VI type (found in 6/26 legs), VL type (found in 5/26 legs), and common type (found in 4/26 legs).  Whether these different subtypes have any impact on leg strength or function remains unknown.

Women runners of all sizes experience breast pain

Strength of evidence: 4/5

Strength of effect: N/A

Running involves a lot of moving parts, and many runners find that, unfortunately, this includes breasts.  A study of 1285 female runners who participated in the 2012 London Marathon found that 32% of them experienced breast pain. The chances of having breast pain increased with cup size and decreased with having had children previously. Seventeen percent of the women experiencing breast pain said they reduced how much they exercised as a consequence.  Surprisingly the researchers found that despite the relationship between cup size and probability of experiencing pain, over 20% of A cup wearers still experienced breast pain, so pain (or lack thereof) can happen to women with any sized breasts. Finally, most women (>40%) did not do anything to deal with their breast pain, 20% used a sports bra, 15% used pain medication, and 13% just held their breasts.  Yeowch!

Strength of evidence: This is a measure of how many participants were in the study: 1 = 10 or fewer, 2 = 100 or fewer, 3 = 1000 or fewer, 4 = 10,000 or fewer, 5 = 10,000+

Strength of effect: This is a measure of how much of a effect was found.  Not every study will have this, but for those that do, we will base it on the odds ratio, which is the multiplier of 1 which is the control (e.g. so if eating eggplant gives you OR of 2 for developing bad breath, you have double the risk of getting bad breath as someone who doesn’t eat eggplant): 1 = OR of 1 – 2, 2 = OR of 2 – 3, 3 = OR of 3 – 4, 4 = OR of 4- 5, 5 = OR of 5+

Cover photo by Gary Lerude is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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