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Achilles Tendon Handles Downhill Running Better Than Thought

The key is to transition gradually, researcher says

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 18, 2015 (HealthDay News) — The Achilles tendon can handle downhill running better than previously thought; the key is to transition gradually to downhill running, according to research published recently in the Journal of Sports Science & Medicine.

“Runners can know it is safe to transition to downhill running and include it in normal training and racing,” study author Katy Andrews Neves, of Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, said in a university news release. “Though there are greater forces placed on your body during downhill running, the benefits can outweigh the risks.”

Neves and colleagues monitored 20 female runners while they ran on a treadmill at three grades — 6 percent downhill grade, level, and 6 percent uphill grade — on separate days. None of the grades put the Achilles tendon at increased risk for injury, the researchers discovered.

“Over time, runners adapt to the forces placed on their body, so even when the forces are higher (running downhill), if the adaptation process is gradual, the injury risk drops,” Neves said. “Our bodies are amazing and are very good at adapting to the conditions we put them in.” It’s estimated that 52 percent of distance runners injure their Achilles tendon at some point, the researchers note.

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