A Race For The Cure

July 6, 2022

A title such as this is usually associated with causes like cancer, diabetes or Alzheimer’s. But this one is different. This article is about sports injuries. I’m enjoying reading the new book by Jim Weber, the reigning CEO of Brooks Running and Brooks is committed to do something about injury prevention.

Jim was hired in 2002 to revive a near-bankrupt company, one that sat near the bottom of the list for running shoe companies. His new book, Running With Purpose; How Brooks Outpaced Goliath Competitors to Lead the Pack, is a great read telling his journey. It tells the behind-the-scenes story of what steps Jim and Brooks took to leapfrog everyone to get to the top.

I have a special place in my heart for Brooks Running because in 1994, when I brought 20 young Kenyan runners to this country while starting the first Kenyan training program in the U.S., Helen Rockey was CEO of Brooks, and Helen was incredibly gracious in sponsoring our team, Team Stick. We proudly wore Brooks clothing as Thomas Osano, Lazarus Nyakeraka, John Kagwe, Josphat Machuka and others made significant noise in races around the country.

But today, I again find myself appreciating Brooks Running. To get to the top, Jim Weber chose biomechanics as his bus ticket to an improved running shoe as well as a decrease in running injuries. As the self-proclaimed most experienced human on the planet regarding calf muscle pulls, I appreciate anyone willing to step to the plate and help find answers. My massive experience with calf pulls has more to do with me being the patient than it does with me being the Dr. When it’s you with a chronic injury and you’re unable to find meaningful answers, your emotions go from a recession to a depression quickly.

Brooks Running established biomechanical research by acquiring data on one hundred thousand runners. Shoe testers near and far, at great expense, provided significant and useful data. The conclusion, every runner has a “Run Signature”, kind of like a fingerprint. Every runner is 100% unique. Understanding this basic truth, Brooks elected to “not fix the runner’s flaws, but to work with the natural and highly individual motion paths of the joints”. So, in essence, no one to date has figured out how to “fix the flaws”, so rather than Brooks waiting another 50 years before that information becomes available, they chose to support the dysfunction. They call it “working with the natural and highly individual motion paths of joints”.

Clearly this approach proved successful. Brooks is on top, and deservedly so. But, in my opinion, this is just the beginning. The path they’ve chosen, helping to biomechanically support the runner, is the correct path. But the preferred answer to helping runners avoid injuries is not to patch up the dysfunction but help correct the dysfunction. 

Modern Day Sports Medicine

Modern sports medicine is reactive. Physicians and therapists are trained to diagnose and treat injuries. Take a healthy, uninjured 12-year-old soccer player to your local orthopedist and ask if they can evaluate and determine how this athlete can prevent injuries as they grow. You’ll get a bizarre stare with nothing to follow. That’s not what they do.

Rewind back to 1987, after completing my 13th marathon, I began pulling calf muscles that prevented me from running more than 3 miles without pulling another one. I estimate over the next 8 years I suffered 60-70 pulls. Each one would take 2 to 8 weeks to heal. I didn’t know how to prevent the next pull, and after my 6th appointment with a specialist, I understood what George Sheehan wrote about in 1975 in his Book on Running. He wrote, “I had not gone high enough on the specialist ladder to find the wise man to help me. I soon discovered, there is no wise man”.

So, in my journey to get back to the love of my life, running, it took me 14 years of trial and effort. But I did it. And that became my Maggs’ Muscle Management™ Program. I ran the 2001 Vermont City Marathon and got my life back. I gave a clinic the day before and held up my medal from 1987 and told the group that with any luck, I will be holding up the medal to my 14th marathon within 24 hours. It was a surreal (and tearful) moment. 

This experience started me on a journey, a journey to learn how to evaluate a 12-year-old never-before-injured soccer player and determine where his “biomechanical flaws” were and how to help him correct them. I’ve spent the last 25 years on this mission. That’s why today, I own BiomechanicalAnalytics.com as well as OrthopedicAnalytics.com. No one else in the industry has attempted to “find” the flaws, which ensures the fact that no one yet has learned how to “fix” the flaws. I admire Jim’s mission, but in my humble opinion, it falls short of the technology that is available today. He has taken Brooks to a billion dollar/year business with the hopes of taking it to a 10 billion dollar/year business by 2030.

As Jim mentions in his book on page 85, “Each runner has his or her own personal stride, like a fingerprint”. He’s so correct. Go to any race and look at the difference in running styles. What Jim doesn’t know is that 25 years ago, I started the development of The Structural Fingerprint® Exam and have now performed this biomechanical exam on over 20,000 people. My Concerned Parents of Young Athletes™ Program has taught hundreds of families why it’s important for me (and others) to biomechanically evaluate their middle and high school athletes, regardless of whether they’re injured or not, because so many pro-active things can be done at this age to change the outcomes. This means delayed degeneration and fewer injuries. It also means less expense and higher quality of life.

My conclusion is that Jim Weber is a genius. He’s doing what no one else has done and the market is rewarding him and Brooks with a positive response. But, if Jim and Brooks could embrace utilize the available research and development in the biomechanics world, the face of sports medicine could change forever. 

Dr. Bennet Omalu, a Nigerian pathologist, went up against the NFL and won, proving that continued traumas to the head produces cellular damage. We now have Concussion Protocols in every organization, school, and team in the country. The level of concern shown to the brain needs to also be shown to the rest of the body, from the neck down, and that’s what this new technology does. We cannot support the dysfunctions; we need to find and fix them. The technology is here. Once Brooks (or Nike or Adidas) is made aware of the new technology and they help bring it to market, we can all celebrate. Someone will be doing more than 10 billion dollars/year.

For today’s goal, let’s not just Run Happy, let’s run forever. With Brooks shoes, of course.