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Insight Sport: How data can help recreational runners to avoid injury

Submitted on Wednesday, 25/05/2022

Recreational running –  or jogging –  is a popular, free and accessible form of healthy exercise. Unfortunately, some injuries are common among runners. Some injuries can be explained by individual running styles. Prof. Kieran Moran at Insight DCU leads two world-leading studies of injury in recreational runners – RISC1 (n=310, data collected) and RISC2 (n=100, study at launch phase). The objective of the RISC studies is to find modifiable predictors of injury and performance in recreational running. These studies collect a huge amount of sensor data, including inertial sensor data from 7 sensors located on different parts of the body (feet, tibia, thighs, and lower back) and motion capture data (joint angles, angular velocities in three planes) that give us information about running technique.

The team is investigating how these sensor data – which tell us about the differences in running style – are associated with injury. Sensor data are complicated, and each person in the study runs on a treadmill for several minutes so there are lots of strides to analyse, plus the left and right legs are measured separately. Using a statistical approach, called functional data analysis, combined with runners’ multivariate sensor data may reveal groups of runners more prone to injury and lead to the development of individualised predictions and adaptive ranges of sensor biomechanics, which will inform a risk profile for injury. They are also investigating how previous injuries might change running style, and prospectively whether certain running styles are associated with an increased injury risk. With the popularity of jogging, the results could have a huge impact on reducing injuries in recreational runners in the future.

The RISC team: Prof. Kieran Moran (DCU), Prof. Norma Bargary (UL), Dr. Shane Gore (DCU), Dr. Andrew Simpkin (NUIG), Dr. Steven Golovkine (Research Fellow, UL), Dr. Luis Sanchez (Research Fellow, UL), Edward Gunning (PhD student, UL), Sarah Dillon (PhD student, DCU), Joe Gwatsvaira (PhD student, UL) and John Andrew (PhD student, NUIG)