It’s that time again when I have the pleasure of sharing what the experts at the UVA Running Medicine conference are up to and how we can keep runners running fast, long and healthy. This year did not disappoint as the keynote speaker Bryan Heiderscheit, PT, Ph.D. dropped so many knowledge bombs I needed an extra hand to write everything down. Here’s what the UVA crew had to offer this year…

I’ll start with Bryan, as his lectures were not only fascinating, but he is one of the most knowledgeable physical therapists and researchers I have had the pleasure of meeting. His keynote topics were Return to Running after ACL reconstruction and Gait Re-training and he definitely brought his A game, which I’m assuming he always does. Bryan provided very thought-provoking information about the current framework for returning patients to running after ACL reconstruction.

According to the research Bryan and his team have been doing at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the current timeframe for return to running might be more ambitious than patients are truly prepared for. They have identified significant limb asymmetry during running in these athletes, sometimes years after their surgery and at times in spite of normal knee strength and range of motion measures. One of the most predictive values was how much knee flexion occurred during midstance on the surgical leg, which trended toward less than the non-surgical leg, suggesting the athlete is unwilling to load that leg appropriately when running.

Does this even matter? Absolutely it does in that asymmetric loading patterns may potentially increase or decrease the forces happening on the body, which in turn may open the door for pain, injury, and decreased athletic performance. Summary: As physical therapists, we need to perform thorough running gait assessments of athletes post-ACL reconstruction prior to a full return to running to minimize dysfunctional movement patterns, minimize potential injury, and maximize athletic performance upon return to sport.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Jay Dicharry, one of the founding members and continued planning committee members of Running Medicine. Jay always shows up with strong information and this year was no different as he discussed footwear and how the industry may be changing. He re-emphasized the fact of choosing running shoes based on foot type is not the way to go and we need to look at the whole runner, not just their foot and what it looks like. His line of the shoe should fit the foot, not the other way around seems so simple except it’s not what’s happening in real life. The takeaway continues to be runners need to choose/be prescribed shoes that are comfortable and fit their feet, not what color is the prettiest or which is the newest fad on the market.

Also, I picked up a copy of Jay’s new book for him to sign (he always writes the best lines!), Running ReWired, which I highly recommend reading if you’re a runner or treat runners in any capacity.

Additional highlights of the conference were from the other planning committee members Dr. Robert Wilder and Eric Magrum about runners and osteoarthritis (OA) and how we can keep these folks running as long and as fast as they want. The myth that running causes OA and “ruins your knees” continues to be just that, a myth. Now that’s not to say OA may not make running a bit more challenging and potentially painful, but luckily no one has to hang up their running shoes because of it. There are many ways to continue running safely and not increase pain or the risk of injury when done correctly and modified as needed based on a runner’s current status and running goals.

Needless to say, the UVA Running Medicine Conference continues to be on my calendar each year to stay current with the running research so we can keep our runners healthy and set new PRs. 

Dr. Ivy L. Jordan, PT, DPT, CSCS, HKC                                   

Performance Physical Therapist / Running Performance Specialist 

Dr. Jordan received her Doctorate of Physical Therapy from The George Washington University in Washington, DC, and her Bachelor’s in Exercise Science from the University of Mary in Bismarck, North Dakota. She competed for four years in cross-country and track and field while attending UMary with areas of specialty in the 1500/1600m, 3000m, 5000m, and 3000m steeplechase. She continues to be an avid runner who has a strong interest in working with the running population, whether it’s achieving a personal record or taking the first step towards joining the running community. Dr. Jordan is also a high school cross-country and track and field coach specializing in distance events.