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Runners Get a Leg Up With New Drexel Assessment

November 5, 2014

Running AssessmentRunners are coming to Drexel to step up their performance as well as to address their injuries. Robert Maschi, assistant clinical professor in the Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Sciences Department, and a team of colleagues at the University are offering a new multipronged assessment approach to runners at Parkway Health and Wellness and in the physical therapy clinic in the Drexel Recreation Center. “These assessments are geared toward two different types of runners,” Maschi said. Both injured runners as well as those aspiring to improve their form or an aspect of their performance are benefitting from the running assessments.

When runners come to Maschi and his colleagues for an analysis, they can expect to complete several steps, the first of which is an interview to gather background information. Medical and injury history, previous and current running status, and types of running shoes used are all necessary pieces of information for Maschi and his team to collect prior to the physical portions of the assessment.

After gathering this data, Maschi conducts a physical examination that involves a musculoskeletal exam of the lower extremities, as well as tests that determine flexibility, structure, range of motion, and core stability. A software program is used to analyze video captured while the runner performs specific movement screening tests, as well as video obtained from multiple angles of clients running on a treadmill. “The software allows us to perform a two-dimensional motion analysis,” Maschi explained. “From the video, we can assess joint positions and movement patterns and measure different distances and angles using the software, thus generating a report that looks at various aspects of the client’s running mechanics and running gait.”

Conducting the analysis itself is only the beginning of the process. Runners receive the most benefit when they actually review the report with Maschi or his colleagues, who may make recommendations to change an aspect of their running form, such as to increase or decrease step length, or to change step width. “Foot strike patterns have different implications for the way that tissues get loaded, and we may make modifications based on that,” Maschi elaborated. There are strategies and protocols to make these changes, and consulting with Maschi gives runners access to these well-researched practices. “The evidence in the literature shows that small changes in form have a big effect on the load on the body, and on injury risk,” Maschi said. A leader in this area, Maschi began honing his assessment approach when he established a running clinic in New York prior to coming to Drexel.

Injuries can be devastating to runners in both the short- and long-term. Among some of the most commonly experienced running injuries are Iliotibial band syndrome, Patellofemoral pain (pain in the knee cap), Plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinitis, stress fractures, and shin splints. “Research estimates that between 50-70% of runners are injured over the course of a year,” Maschi reported. Research supporting Maschi’s gait retraining approach has just risen to prominence in the field during the course of the past three years or so.

The Department of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Sciences is currently conducting five research projects related to running injury and are hoping to shed light on reasons behind the high rate of injury sustained by runners as well as to provide solutions to this problem. Maschi’s work, however, is clinically focused. “It’s very valuable for the individual runner to get specific feedback relative to their unique running mechanics,” he said. To complement the thorough assessment opportunities his group offers, Maschi additionally lectures and delivers educational presentations on running analysis to physical therapists and professional groups. He recently spoke at the annual Philadelphia Sports Medicine Congress on this topic and will soon be offering community education on running mechanics and related topics to people interested in running the upcoming Philadelphia Marathon.

Training for a marathon or another race? Pursuing a distance goal or personal best? Experiencing a running injury? To schedule a running analysis appointment, please call 215.571.4287, or email

by Mary Kate O'Keefe