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Fall is here, cross-country running season has begun and the 26th Steamtown Marathon is only a few weeks away! With that in mind, running injuries, some very specific to women, are on the increase…

While driving to or from work have you noticed more local running enthusiasts in the past few years? Moreover, have your noticed that most of the runners are women? Scranton Running Company has contributed to NEPA’s participation in a national trend; more women are engaged in running than men! Female runners account for 9.7 million runners (57%) while 7 million males run on a national level.

With this surge, the female runner has been subjected to a host of related injuries, including shin splints, which often lead to stress fractures. New research has found that stress fractures may be related to the loss of weight and body mass associated with the sport.

A recent study from Ohio State University found that female runners with a Body Mass Index (BMI) below 19 may have a higher risk of developing stress fractures than women with a BMI of 19 or above. Furthermore, the study also found that these women took longer to recover from these injuries.

According to Timothy Miller, MD, “When body mass index is very low and muscle mass is depleted, there is nowhere for the shock of running to be absorbed other than directly into the bones. Until some muscle mass is developed and BMI is optimized, runners remain at increased risk of developing a stress fracture,”

The study also found that female runners with a BMI of 19 or higher with severe stress fractures required 13 weeks to recover from their injuries and return to running. Runners with a BMI lower than 19, however, took more than 17 weeks to recover.

They concluded that women should know their BMI and consult with a medical professional to maintain a healthy number. Additionally, women should cross-train and include resistance training to improve the strength and muscle mass of the lower extremities to prevent injury.

The current BMI wisdom, according to the National Institutes of Health, is 19.8 for men and 24 for women, however, strong and competitive women tend to have a BMI of 26. A BMI of 18 is considered malnourished.

What is BMI?

Body mass index (BMI) is a measure of body fat based on height and weight of adult men and women over 20 years of age, according to the National Institutes of Health.

BMI = (weight in pounds / height in inches squared) X 703)

Example 1: a person who weighs150 pounds and is 68 inches (5 feet 8 inches) tall has a BMI of 22.8

Example 2: a person who weighs 110 pounds and is 66 inches (5 feet 5 inches) tall has a BMI of 17.7

Underweight      < 18.5%

Normal weight      18.5 to 24.9%

Overweight      25 to 29.9%

Obesity            30 and over

What is a stress fracture?

A stress fracture is fatigue damage to bone with partial or complete disruption of the cortex of the bone from repetitive loading. While standard x-rays may not reveal the problem, a bone scan, and MRI will. It usually occurs in the long bones of the leg, mostly the tibia (shin bone) but also the femur (thigh) and foot. Occasionally, it occurs in the arm.

Who is at risk for stress fractures?

FEMALE RUNNERS WITH BMI LOWER THAN 19 – is a primary risk factor.

10-21% of all competitive athletes are at risk for stress fractures. Track, cross country and military recruits are at greatest risk. Females are twice as likely as males to have a stress fracture. Other athletes at risk are: sprinters, soccer and basketball players, jumpers, ballet dancers are at risk in the leg and foot. Gymnasts are also vulnerable in the spine while rowers, baseball pitchers, golfers and tennis players can experience the fracture with much less frequency in the ribs & arm.           

The problem is much more prevalent in weight bearing repetitive, loading sports in which leanness is emphasized (ballet, cheerleading) or provides an advantage (distance running, gymnastics).

Stress fractures usually begin with a manageable, poorly localized pain with or immediately after activity such as a shin splint. Over time, pain becomes more localized and tender during activity and then progresses to pain with daily activity and at rest.

Other Causes of Stress Fractures

Prevention & Treatment

Source: Ohio State University, Science Daily

Visit your doctor regularly and listen to your body.     

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This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email:

Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine. For all of Dr. Paul's Articles, visit our exercise forum!

Exercise is important for prevention!

In 2000, President Bill Clinton dedicated March as National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. The purpose of this designation is to increase public awareness of the facts about colon cancer – a cancer that is preventable, treatable and has a high survival rate. Regular screening tests, expert medical care and a healthy lifestyle, which includes a proper diet and exercise, are essential for prevention. Several studies have demonstrated that exercise can also help prevent colon cancer. 

The American Cancer Society estimates that there will be approximately 107,000 new cases of colorectal cancer in 2023. Of these, 52,550 men and women will succumb to the disease. It is the second-leading cause of U.S. cancer deaths for both men and women combined. The good news is incidence and mortality rates are dropping both nationally as well as in northeast Pennsylvania. The bad news is northeast Pennsylvania still has increased incidence and mortality rates when compared to the national average.

Colon Cancer Facts:

Studies show that prevention of this disease is multifaceted and includes: engaging in daily exercise, eating a low-fat diet with little red meat, avoiding smoking, drinking in moderation and having regular colonoscopy screenings.

Early detection is the key to survival. Death from colorectal cancer can be eliminated if caught at the earliest signs of disease. Colorectal cancer progresses very slowly, usually over years. It often begins as non-cancerous polyps in the lining of the colon. In some cases, these polyps can grow and become cancerous, often without any symptoms. Some symptoms that may develop are: blood in stool, changes in bowel movement, feeling bloated, unexplained weight loss, feeling tired easily, abdominal pain or cramps, and vomiting. Contact your physician if you have any of these symptoms.

The risk of colon cancer increases with age, as 90 percent of those diagnosed are older than age 50. A family history of colon cancer increases risk. Also, those with benign polyps, inflammatory bowel disease, ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease are at greater risk and should be screened more frequently.

Prevention of Colon Cancer:

  1. Colonoscopy – The colonoscopy is the most accurate screening test for detecting polyps and colorectal cancer. A long, thin, flexible tube with a camera is used to visually examine the lining of the colon. Polyps can be removed at the time of the exam if necessary. Most people should have this test starting at age 50, although high-risk populations (i.e. those with genetic predisposition or inflammatory bowel disease) may begin at age 40 to 45 or even younger.
  2. Diet & Nutrition – Diets rich in fiber are generally considered beneficial for overall health, including colorectal health. Limit high-fat foods especially from animal sources. Limit red meat and dairy. A diet consisting of fish, fruit and vegetables is valuable. Some researchers theorize that Brussels sprouts, broccoli and cabbage may trigger a chemical process to turn on a gene to suppress tumors. Sunlight and vitamin D are thought to be important too. 
  3. Lifestyle & Personal Habits – Smoking and excessive alcohol use increases risk for colorectal cancer and other forms of cancer. Stress and anxiety can be cancer triggers.
  4. Exercise – While there have been many studies about the benefits of exercise for colon cancer, none have been more encouraging than a recent study from the Hutchinson Cancer Institute in Seattle. Patients with abnormal cells on the lining of their colons, as found by colonoscopy, demonstrated positive changes and reversal of these cells after engaging in four hours of exercise per week for one year. Some studies have shown that exercise can reduce the risk of colon cancer by 50 percent.

How Exercise Prevents Colon Cancer:

The intestine works like a sewage plant, recycling the food and liquid needed by your body. However, it also stores waste prior to disposal. The longer the wastes remain idle in your colon or rectum, the more time toxins have to be absorbed from you waste into the surrounding tissues. One method in which exercise may help prevent colon cancer is to get your body moving, including your intestines. Exercise stimulates muscular contraction called peristalsis to promote movement of waste through your colon.

Exercise to prevent colon cancer does not have to be extreme. A simple increase in daily activity for 15 minutes, two times per day or 30 minutes, once per day is adequate to improve the movement of waste through your colon. This can be simply accomplished by walking, swimming, biking or playing golf, tennis or basketball. For those interested in a more traditional exercise regimen, perform aerobic exercise for 30-45 minutes four to five days per week, with additional sports and activities for the remainder of the time. For those in poor physical condition, begin slowly. Start walking for five to 10 minutes, two to three times per day. Then, add one to two minutes each week until you attain a 30-45 minute goal. 

Medical Contributor: Christopher A. Peters, M.D

Dr. Christopher Peters is a partner of Radiation Medicine Associates of Scranton (RAMAS) and serves as medical director of Northeast Radiation Oncology Centers (NROC). He is an associate professor of clinical medicine at GCSOM. Sources: American Cancer Society/Northeast Regional Cancer Institute, and CA Cancer J Clin.

EVERY MONDAY - Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey "Health & Exercise Forum!"

This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email:

Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at GCSOM. For all of Dr. Mackarey's Articles, visit our Healthcare Forum!

Lung Cancer is a deadly disease. Until recently, there was not an effective and safe screening test. A chest X-ray, often used only after patients developed symptoms, discovered the disease when it was in its late stages. This is about to change. Those who are at high risk for lung cancer can now be screened annually using low-dose spiral CT scans

Lung Cancer Facts:

FACT 1: In 2019 over 225,000 people in the United States were newly diagnosed with lung cancer (615 people/day).

FACT 2:  90% of individuals who have lung cancer will eventually die of the disease, making lung cancer the deadliest cancer in the United States for both men and women (19% 5-year survival rate). 

FACTS 3:  85% of all lung cancers are caused by smoking.

FACT 4:  According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, 22% of people aged 18 years and older residing in Northeastern, PA smoke.  

FACT 5: The best prevention measures are not smoking or using tobacco products and avoid second-hand smoke or high air pollution environments.

One of the reasons for the high mortality rate in lung cancer is that the disease is often not discovered until it is advanced and treatment options are limited. Some of the most common signs and symptoms of lung cancer are easily mistaken either for a mild illness or for things such as “smoker’s cough”.  By the time many patients are diagnosed, their disease is advanced and may involve lymph nodes or other organs. 

For some cancers, there are established screening tests that help to identify these cancers at an earlier stage.  For example, routine screenings through colonoscopies, mammograms, and pap smears are well established and have saved thousands of lives.  Until recently, lung cancer has not had such a screening test.

In 2013, The United States Preventative Task Force (USPTF), an independent committee charged by congress to evaluate current data, recommended that all persons who are at high risk for lung cancer should be screened annually using low-dose spiral CT scans.  High risk persons are identified as those who are between the ages of 55 and 79, who have a history of 30 pack years or more of smoking, and who are either still smoking or who have quit within the last 15 years.  A “pack year” is defined as smoking 1 pack of cigarettes a day for a year. For example, a person could have 30 pack years of smoking if they smoke 1 pack of cigarettes a day for 30 years.  Similarly, they could have a 30-pack year history by smoking 2 packs of cigarettes a day for 15 years.

CT, or computed tomography, scans are a form of three-dimensional imaging used by clinicians to visualize the organs and other anatomy of patients.  The scan can detect abnormalities on a patient’s lung with much earlier and with greater sensitivity than an x-ray.  Much like a mammogram, low-dose CT scans do not diagnose cancer but are a way to identify patients with abnormalities that need to be investigated further for the possibility of cancer.  This new screening test will allow physicians to see possibly cancerous abnormalities of the lung before the disease can spread and become impossible to cure.  The scan is non-invasive and generally considered very safe. Low-dose CT scans carry about 5 times less radiation than traditional high-dose CT scans and are equivalent to about 15 x-rays.

This screening practice can save the lives of between 15 and 20% of those diagnosed with lung cancer by detecting cancers before they can progress to the point that they are resistant to medical treatment. While this screening is a major step in the detection and treatment of lung cancer, it is not a substitute for quitting smoking.  The best proven methods to prevent lung cancer and its deadly consequences is to not smoke, use other tobacco products, and avoid exposure to second-hand smoke. If you or a loved one need help quitting tobacco products, you may contact your physician or call 1-800-QUIT-NOW or visit

Signs and Symptoms of Lung Cancer:

NOTE: These signs and symptoms can be attributed to many different causes and are not exclusive to lung cancer. Always discuss your symptoms with your physician.

Who should be included in annual low-dose spiral CT screening for lung cancer?

Patients who fit all of the below criteria:

*A pack year is defined as 1 pack of cigarettes per day for a year

Contributions: Sarah Bashaw, MD: participated in this column as a third year medical student while studying at TCMC (GCSOM).

Medical Reviewer: Greg Cali, DO, Pulmonologist, Dunmore, PA

Read “Health & Exercise Forum” – Every Monday.  This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email:

Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor  in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at GCSOM.

Read all of Dr. Mackarey articles in our Health Care Forum at:

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