New technology helps diagnose problems for runners

Runners with knee, foot or hip problems have new options through the Aurora Sports Medicine Institute’s Performance Running Program.

The program is offered at four locations – at Aurora’s Sinai Medical Center in Milwaukee, as well as in Aurora clinics in Kenosha, Mequon and Oconomowoc.

Some elements of the program rely on traditional analysis. Physical therapists and athletic trainers examine runners’ shoes, looking at wear, fit and shape. They also measure patients’ joint mobility, condition and where pain may be coming from.

However, the clinic has another, more powerful tool, which has been in place since March, that helps trainers and therapists find trouble spots in a runner’s stride.

That tool, a treadmill and two video cameras connected to a laptop computer loaded with specialized software, helps physicians and physical therapists find, diagnose and treat specific problems with the way people run.

Reflective tape is placed on the runner’s ankle, knee, hip and back, and is used to measure movement on the treadmill. Video is taken from two angles, recorded on the laptop and can be replayed in slow motion or freeze-frame, said Cathy Kornmeyer a physical therapist and licensed athletic trainer that helped develop the program.

“With the video, we can see the markers and we can make an analysis based off the tape that we see from the cameras,” she said.

Kornmeyer and Katie Fara, another physical therapist in Aurora’s Sports Medicine Institute, helped develop the Performance Running Program using a computer program called the Simi Motion Analysis System. The system creates video loops of a runner in motion, allowing physical therapists and trainers to examine how and when a heel is striking, when the heel is lifting off of the ground, toe position, hip sway and virtually any other aspect of a runner’s stride.

The purpose of the program is to help runners travel farther with less pain.

“We’re not doing all that much to the way they’re running,” Kornmeyer said. “We’re giving them the tools to maintain better flexibility to run faster and longer than they could before. On a smaller level, there may be some gait issues we need to address. We had a guy in here not too long ago and we put a lift into one shoe to fix his mechanics.”

The video analysis and its ability to visually isolate individual movements gives health care workers better abilities to diagnose and see specific physical problems, said Dr. Michael Gordon, a physician who has referred patients to the clinic. Gordon, an avid runner training for a marathon, has used the system to scrutinize himself.

“The dual camera analysis – one from the side and one from the back – that gives you a dynamic evaluation,” he said. “That’s one of the things that has (historically) been a challenge. I see people because their knee hurts. But I don’t know what mechanism is leading to the pain from a thing like running. (With the system) I can stop action, see when they’re hitting wrong at the ground or a pelvic imbalance. It’s unbelievable what it can give you.”

About four months ago, Gordon was experiencing heel and foot arch pain that was limiting his ability to run. After going through the video analysis, he was able to isolate specific physical movements he was making to compensate for the pain.

“In my own stride, I knew that I needed to concentrate on my heel strike,” Gordon said. “When I ran (on the treadmill), you could see how my heel strike was off and I was avoiding the part that hurt. By correcting that I was able to finish training. I’ll run in a marathon Sunday (last week), that I thought three or four months ago that I was going to have to shut down.”

After diagnosis on with the video system, runners are given options of how to minimize pain and fix their problem areas. Depending on the malady, patients may be told to buy new and different running shoes, strengthen or stretch different muscle groups or have custom orthopedic inserts made.

Because the Performance Running Program is still relatively new, Kornmeyer and Fara have not yet seen repeat patients to chart improvement. However, they’ve had follow-up conversations on the phone with several clients.

“We’ve both been engaged with phone conversations, and they’ve been very positive so far,” Kornmeyer said.

In November, Aurora’s Sports Medicine Institute will unveil its newest offering – VO2 MAX/anaerobic threshold testing – to fitness buffs. Testing will be offered on the first Thursday of the month.

“It measures the body’s ability to take in oxygen and fuel your muscles while you’re running,” Fara said. “It also gives your heart rate and tells you at what level your body operates most efficiently.”

The tests will be done in one of Aurora’s cardio labs, where accurate heart rate monitoring can be done. Runners will also be connected to a breath-measuring apparatus that is connected to the heart monitor.

“It all feeds into a computer system that does calculations for us,” Fara said. “It’s an intense test. We ask people to run until basically they can’t any more. It starts low and increases speed and incline. It looks like a Gatorade commercial.”



Aurora Sports Medicine Institute’s Performance Running Program is not covered by most insurance providers. Rates are as follows:
• Video analysis, musculoskeletal evaluation and recommendations – $150
• Video analysis and recommendations – $95
• Follow-up consultation, no additional video – $75
• VO2 Max/Anaerobic threshold testing – $175

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