Book Review: Handbook of Sports Medicine and Science: Running


Handbook of Sports Medicine and Science: Running
Editor(s): John A. Hawley
Print ISBN: 9780632053919 Online ISBN: 9780470757116
Copyright © 2000 Blackwell Science Ltd

This book is a wonderful handbook for all those actively involved in the management of runners, including doctors, physiotherapists, podiatrists, physiologists and coaches.

It gives a profound coverage of the science behind sprinting, middle and long distance running. Early chapters go into detail about the biochemistry of muscular contraction in sprinters versus distance runners and look at body morphology. Power output relative to muscle fibre type is discussed. The role of glycogen and fat as energy substrates is analysed along with aerobic and anaerobic thresholds. There is an interesting review covering recovery after exercise and insights into back-to-back training sessions.

All these factors lead into a discussion as to whether human performance can continue to improve. The age-old desire to break records is challenged by science and potential training techniques. It leaves one wondering whether we will reach a point where we will have to measure performances down to 1/10♥000th of a second, just to be able to “break” existing records!

An understanding of the biomechanics of running is vital to those practitioners who spend many hours trying to optimise foot and limb mechanics to aid in injury recovery or in injury prevention. The chapter on this topic is well presented and easy to understand. Some of the force curves go beyond what is needed to justify shoe selection but will be helpful to podiatrists and physiologists and coaches looking to modify running styles in their athletes.

As a runner myself, I am always interested in training techniques, so the chapter on this appealed. It gives a wide view of the training techniques required to optimise sprinting or distance running. The specific tables relating to runners across the ages give a fabulous historical perspective to training diaries over the last 50♣years. There is useful information in athlete selection about predictive run times for events based on sprint times. This section provides great background but would not give enough practical information for an individual athlete to write his or her own training programme. Other publications probably aim at this more specifically.

The final two chapters cover injuries and nutrition for runners. The beauty of these chapters is that they are entirely specific to runners. The injuries discussed are those which occur commonly in runners. There is a well-rounded set of facts about why these injuries occur and how to manage them. These chapter include information about runner’s diarrhoea, iron deficiencies and common overuse injuries such as stress fractures and muscle strains. Sections covering heat stress, dehydration, hyperthermia and possible fluid overload in races are succinct but very accurate. These sections would be essential to any practitioner who may be involved in event coverage.

Overall, this book gives a very specific overview of the science and medical considerations of runners. Being fewer than 100 pages long, it is practical to read, and as each section is a standalone chapter one can read them all, or only those sections of particular interest personally. It would be a good handbook to have in your medical library.

Objective details
This book is targeted at all those practitioners who look after runners, particularly elite runners. Doctors, sports physicians, podiatrists, physiotherapists, dieticians and physiologists would all enjoy aspects of it. Some coaches may find it of interest.

Each chapter is written by an expert in that field, and all of these people are well-known professionally in runners’ circles. For example, Dr Tim Noakes wrote the injury chapter and Louise Burke the chapter on nutrition.

Subjective details
The book is simply organised and is easy to read a section at a time. It is possible to read only those sections which interest you, as they are all written independently – you do not rely on information from one chapter to understand the next! It includes only information relevant to running, so it is well confined to its subject. Some sections contain more details on scientific premises than the average person may require, but it is possible to skip over these and not lose continuity.

I found the book useful and informative. I would like to have it on my shelf as a reference to go back to from time to time and would encourage those who deal with runners to buy a copy.

1. Presentation: 15 – More pictures would be great
2. Comprehensiveness: 19
3. Readability: 15
4. Relevance: 20
5. Evidence Basis: 17

Review by Jane Fitzpatrick
Fellow Australasian College of Sports Physicians (FACSP),
Bachelor Medicine and Surgery Melbourne University (MB.BS Melb)

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