5 Common Injuries on The Spartan Race And Tough Mudder.

When you mix mud, hiking, running, climbing and other outdoor activities together, make it into a competition, you’re bound to have people unprepared for it and even more likely to suffer injuries.

spartan race and tough mudder injuries

As much as I have enjoyed going on Tough Mudders and Spartan Races, this is an unfortunate fact and one that has less chances of happening IF you’re careful.

So I would like to list the 5 most common injuries you can experience on these mud runs as well as ways you can reduce the odds of them happening. And I will share with you one major injury I sustained in a Tough Mudder and how you can avoid these things from happening to you should you participate.

Do note, any mud run out there or any physical activity HAS the risk of injury happening, so you really have to be intelligent and examine what you’re doing before you put your body through the risk of completing an obstacle or the said physical activity and if you’re got doubts, just don’t take that risk people…

1) Sprains. 

Without a doubt, the most common injury is a sprain.

It can happen on your ankle, feet, it can happen on your knees, elbows and shoulders. The point is, when you’re running for so long, going up and down obstacles and putting a lot of pressure on your feet, this is where and when they can happen most often.

Things you can do to reduce that risk:

1) Wear good sneakers. I’m telling you guys, there is a HUGE difference between regular running shoes and ones geared towards trail running and more importantly mud runs. Here is what I use and I have seen massive improvements and FAR less sprains hence. Read my specific experiences with mud runs and what happened when I switched to these shoes here.

2) Stretch the feet, ankle and overall body. When you’re doing these events for so long, the body, especially joints will be strained. Make it a habit to rest and stretch them.

3) Slow down on obstacles and downhill runs. Those areas require you take your time. If you rush into them, especially the downhill runs, you’re less likely to make a safe decision/action if a situation occurs. 

2) Muscle tears. 

These can happen when you lift props on these events without proper form of preparation. I would say the more difficult ones are found on the Spartan Race as the things you lift there are far heavier than on Tough Mudder, at least the ones I did.

What to do to help with this:

Learn how to lift heavy things. Do weight training prior. Get your body used to this. 

Muscle tears can also happen when you don’t stretch the body and particular area enough and place too much strain on it. Make sure to actively stop and re-stretch the body, something I believe is mandatory!

In my case, I sustained a very bad muscle tear in my ankle (with a sprain to boot) when I tried to leap to a monkey bar a little bit too soon, causing me to slip and fall on my right foot. It took months for this injury to go away, but YEARS later, I still feel the effects of that injury as that area gets sensitive from time to time.

In my case, this injury was due to the monkey bar being slippery and the rest was a freak accident, but it happens, and I detail all of that here.

3) Dehydration.

It is absolutely a common issue to encounter on these events. Obviously the key is to drink and often. Bring a hydration pack, you’ll be happy you did.

Water stations are also readily available in both the Spartan and Tough Mudder Races, so be sure to use them, especially when it’s super hot or cold (dehydration happens faster then). Buy a hydration pack will ensure you won’t need to wait for a water station to come up on your journey through these events.

4) Obstacle accidents. 

There are plenty of obstacles to test your strength and resilience on both events and I find people who are most likely to get hurt here are those who don’t know what the obstacles look like and furthermore don’t prepare for it. 

This can lead to things like people falling from high walls, people losing their grip while climbing ropes and falling badly, people slipping somewhere and this leading to major injuries, ect…

What to do to prevent this:

Seriously, study up on the event you’re going to do. I have more than a “few” articles here on the wide variety of mud runs out there, including Tough Mudders and Spartan Races I’ve done. Watch YouTube videos of people doing this. SEE what you’re going to have to go before the event and absolutely practice going through those obstacles beforehand. 

5) All other miscellaneous injuries that occur because you’re in a hurry.

These events by their nature do not have flat land to run on, they change elevation, give you obstacles that confuse you and make you work different muscle groups. When people are in a hurry to complete these challenges, they make it more likely they’ll tire out fast or make a mistake that causes an injury. 

Injuries can absolutely happen on these events, and they are in some cases inescapable. Very often I find that it is the fault of the participant as much as the event itself that causes the likelihood of the injury to happen in the first place, as they are often careless and in a hurry.

Do each challenge on these events slowly. Watch others do it and if they make a mistake, make a mental note of what they did so you don’t do that, and if you see someone bypass an obstacle, make a mental note of what to do.

Now let me share my experience with this and what I’ve had to deal with:

-Accidents will absolutely occur and this was shown to me on my last Tough Mudder when I suffered a huge sprained ankle like I said earlier.

-I also suffered a cut on my first ever run in MudManX, one I will not forget. While it was just a tiny cut, I was at the time in dirt and I panicked at the though of catching a disease. This is not much of an injury itself, but in the circumstances I was in, it could have very well been that. I experienced that problem because I wasn’t wearing gloves.

-My uncle suffered a similar fall I did on a monkey bar climb on the same MudManX, although in his case, he landed on the ground and the impact hurt his knee for months after. He suffered this accident because he was also in a hurry to get to the next monkey bar as his strength was running out, and the bars were slippery too. He should have skipped…

-I’ve had numerous slips and falls before I started wearing the right footwear. In hindsight, it is a miracle, I didn’t suffer any sprains then, because at some point, it felt like I was ice skating down a dirty and slippery mountain with trees, branches, rocks and other debris in the way.

-I’ve had MASSIVE muscle aches on my quads finishing several Spartan Races and one Tough Mudder. I couldn’t walk for several days. In this case, I made the right changes and updated my training regiment to reflect uphill climbs. This caused my legs to be much stronger and more resilient for the following races I did.

-I’ve witnessed people get dehydrated over trying to reach their next mile where they would get a drink. Obviously, they can correct this by carrying hydration packs. 

-One of the people I went in a group with nearly suffered a heart attack because he was unprepared for the intensity of the events. The man was simply not prepared for the hardships of these events and had no business going through them.

– On one occasion I witnessed a man being given CPR on one of these events and it was quite an eye opening and scary experience. Why this happened, I do not know, but I do hope the man is OK.

Nearly all of these situations are preventable! While you cannot be 100% safe in these events, you increase those odds if you wear the right clothing, take your time with it and beforehand physically prepare for them accordingly. That’s the right approach! 

4 thoughts on “5 Common Injuries on The Spartan Race And Tough Mudder.”

  1. This is a great an informative article about how to avoid injuries in general. It sounds like the key is to make sure that you have the right shoes and clothing as a first step. 

    I especially like your shoe recommendations. It saves a lot of time being able to reference the list that you provided access to vs. searching on the Internet and going out shopping. Thanks so much and stay safe in your next event. I am considering some of the shoe options for jogging. Any thoughts on that?

    Thanks! Kel

    • Hi Kel, the shoes I recommend are for trail running, so if you plan to jog off road, through dirt, mountains and basically in the wild, they’re awesome for this, but not for jogging on concrete, these are not the shoes for that.

    • I agree! The right trail ‘running’ shoes is worth its gold. I bought and trained in Solomon Speedcross 4 and it is a confidence booster. Having the right gear is essential! Just finished a Spartan Super (3/16/19) and can confidently say Speedcross in mud kick butt. There’s a lot of slippery slopes and wet uphills and it was a breeze!


Leave a Comment