Denver, CO

How you lean may be one of the contributors to your knee pain, study by CU Denver

Stephanie Graham

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DENVER, CO — How you lean may be one of the contributors to your knee pain, medial tibial stress syndrome, or back pain. A new study at CU Denver found that greater trunk flexion has a remarkable impact on stride lengths, joint motions, and ground reaction forces.

Anna Warrener, Ph.D., lead author and assistant professor of anthropology at CU Denver, found this out when conducting the initial research during her postdoc fellowship with Daniel Liberman, Ph.D., in the Department of Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University.

Warrener and her team enlisted the help of 23 injury-free recreational runners ranging in age from 18 to 23 years old to investigate the downstream impacts. To succeed the experiment, they needed to figure out how to get each runner to bend at the right tilt.

The team then decided to hang a lightweight plastic dowel from the ceiling on top of the runners' heads, moving it up or down, depending on the angle required.

The result was different from the original hypothesis. The average stride length reduced to 13cm, while the stride frequency increased from 86.3 to 92.8 steps per minute. Theoretically, to keep your body mass from falling outside the support region when you lean forward, your leg must extend longer.

Excessive trunk flexion could be one source of injurious running form, according to Warrener, who believes that understanding how various running forms enhance economy and performance requires a combination of trunk flexion angle, foot and leg positioning, and ground reaction forces factors.

The conclusion is, running is not only about what is happening from the trunk-down, it's a whole-body experience. The way you land your feet, the swing of your hands, it all matters.

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