Dr.J. on Running


Gabe Yankowitz

Healer of Heels

Published April 1, 2002 in The Syracuse Post-Standard.

By Dr Kamal Jabbour, Contributing Writer

Gabe Yankowitz is a miracle worker. A physical therapist by trade and an accomplished marathon runner, he mixes work and play to recycle injured runners back onto the roads. Rather than seeking temporary relief for the symptoms, Yankowitz focuses on treating the root cause of an injury to prevent recurrence.

We experienced Yankowitz first hand while training for our first marathon. When my wife completed a training run in tears from heel pain, we visited his office for evaluation. He pushed his thumb deep into her thigh, and waited for the screaming to subside before asking if it hurt. He diagnosed a muscle imbalance in her hips, prescribed a few exercises, and sent her back on the road within days.

So, when we learned that Yankowitz was giving a seminar on the treatment and prevention of running injuries, we made it a family outing. Seated in the back of a packed room, we listened to his words of wisdom.

First, he satisfied my thirst for numbers: 37-56% of all runners were injured each year, 2.5-12.1 injuries per 1,000 hours of running, 30-90% of injuries caused a reduction or cessation of training, 20-70% required medical consultation, competitive track athletes sustained 0.7 stress fracture per 1,000 hours of running

Next, he presented the anatomy of an injury, outlined its stages and mechanisms, then discussed its causes. Training errors accounted for 60% of all injuries. Beginners and elite athletes alike are guilty of training "too much, too soon, too hard." Improper footwear and biomechanical imbalance accounted for the balance.

My learning moment occurred when Yankowitz announced that bad habits, not anatomical discrepancies, caused 98% of biomechanical imbalance injuries. Our daily posture played a significant role in running injuries. Every standing, sitting and sleeping moment contributed to creating or increasing biomechanical imbalance. He described proper posture and alignment evaluation, presented case studies of bad habits leading to injuries, and blamed the beloved computer for many of our ailments.

Yankowitz completed his talk by discussing injury prevention and treatment. He prescribed basic exercises to strength the abs and the gluteus, common culprits in muscle imbalance. He concluded with a pair of slides on treating injuries, and reiterated the long-held tradition of Rest-Ice-Compression-Elevation of the injured limb.

The question-and-answer session made my day. Yankowitz conceded that there was no conclusive evidence that either stretching or weight-lifting had any impact on improving performance or reducing injury. He professed his belief in specificity: running is the best training for runners. That's my kind of training. Now if only he would admit that cappuccino reduced injuries.

© 2002 The Post-Standard.

Kamal Jabbour runs and writes on the hills of Pompey, New York. His RUNNING Column appears in The Syracuse Post-Standard on Mondays. Dr.J. created TrackMeets.com, webcasting live Every Lap of Every Race. He receives email at jabbour@i2sports.com.