Sports-focused physician helps Indianapolis runner avoid surgery

After recovering from an injury that threatened to end her running days, Kathy Pratt says she learned something that can help other athletes: select doctors and caregivers who share your goals. “I felt like I had a whole team of people at IU Health who were committed to getting me back out there,” says Pratt. “I learned that surgery isn’t always the best option and that a physical therapist can improve your flexibility and gait with small things, and a lot of those things can really be helpful,” she says.

Pratt credits her recovery to a physician who understood her goals—Robert Klitzman, MD, a sports medicine physician and orthopedic surgeon at Indiana University Health Physicians Orthopedics & Sports Medicine. As a runner himself, Klitzman thought Pratt’s knee pain could be addressed with physical therapy. Much to Pratt’s delight, he referred her to a physical therapist who is a veteran marathoner, Jan George, PT, DPT, OCS.

George designed pre-run and targeted stretches for Pratt. She also analyzed her gait and reprogrammed Pratt’s body to achieve better form. With small changes and detailed exercises that could be done at home, Pratt slowly resumed her running routine, becoming a better runner than she was before.

“What impressed me most was the variety of techniques she used to find out what worked best with me,” Pratt says. “Sometimes, she used visual imagery, or she had me listening to my steps to make sure they were light and even—without favoring one side over the other.” George also videotaped Pratt’s run to help her see what needed to change.

A few months after physical therapy ended, Pratt started training for the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon, which she completed last November. After being told she should never run again, it was a huge accomplishment. “I just felt like they gave me back the gift of running,” Pratt says. “I’m just a middle-aged woman, trying to get out there and exercise, but they treated me as if I were as important as an elite athlete.”

With 10 half marathons and one full marathon under her belt, Pratt is focused on improving her speed this year. An injury challenged her to develop a better attitude toward life and running, more patience, and greater sympathy for people dealing with health issues. “You go through life thinking nothing will happen to you, and when it does, it makes you stop and think,” says Pratt. “It became a real privilege to run.”