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HAWC helps sidestep running injuries

By Patrick Desmond | 502nd Air Base Wing OL-A Public Affairs | Sept. 30, 2010

LACKLAND AIR FORCE BASE, Texas — Aching quads, sore calves, tender feet - these are symptoms of a runner well into a racing season.

Sharp pain, escalating discomfort, and inflammation, however, are telltale signs an injury is just down the road.

The staff and volunteers at Lackland's Health and Wellness Center see it all the time.

"Shinsplints, knee problems, we hear that all the time," said Staff Sgt. Maria German, diet technician for the 559th Aeromedical Squadron.

With numerous events on base from fun runs to the Gateway Half Marathon, the staff and volunteers at Lackland's Health and Wellness Center are becoming more and more adept at spotting the difference between overworked muscles providing some feedback or trouble spots that need to be looked at.

Moreover, the number of Airmen the HAWC approves for injury profile is up from about 100 a month last year to 400, ensuring not only the importance of having an experienced staff but also preventative resources such as the gait analysis and the running improvement program.

The center's flight chief, Byron Black, said the increase in profiles may be a result of the revised Air Force fitness program, and since there's a base minimum for the four test components, Airmen need to train for and do well in every aspect of the test.

The HAWC staff does not handle therapy or podiatry. But, rather, the resources at Bldg. 2418 are more proactive.

"The thing we try to work on is prevention," Black said.

Giving its benefactors a head start since the 2009 summer, the running improvement program has steadily helped Airmen improve their 1.5-mile times by an amount of nearly two minutes.

Along with providing social support, and a little peer pressure, program instructors guide servicemembers toward better running mechanics, while increasing their workload slightly each week.

"A lot of times, it's not what you're doing but what you are wearing," running instructor Tim Pitt said. "If you're going to run, you need a good pair of shoes."

The HAWC provides that practical advice.

That's another service Health and Wellness specialist Katia Heard offers by evaluating her patrons on a treadmill with and without shoes.

Every Wednesday from 8-10 a.m., Heard sits at her laptop and conducts gait analysis by capturing runners' tendencies on video.

With two videos playing side-by-side, she can tell if a runner over-pronates and offer advice on the type of shoe that will help and where to buy a pair.

Another program that helps runners remain healthy is Sergeant German's monthly class on nutrition, where proper hydration and nutrition discussed.

Instead of just dealing with aches and pains, shinsplints, tendonitis or runner's knee, the HAWC staff suggest setting up an appointment by calling 671-0566 before hitting the road.