When running hurts: life after a sports injury

Kathy Pratt, after running last year's Monumental Marathon

Kathy Pratt, after running last year's Monumental Marathon

Kathy Pratt began running five years ago to improve her fitness and lose weight. By her account, it was an inauspicious start. “I couldn’t even run a block when I started,” says Pratt, a small business owner and mother of three. But in no time, Pratt began setting and reaching goals that eventually led her to run dozens of races each year.

A few years into her new passion, Pratt got a wake-up call—knee pain. Desperate to keep her running lifestyle afloat, she sought advice from an orthopedic physician. He was against running and advised her to quit, citing a damaged meniscus that would very likely require surgery.

He said she was too old to run and encouraged her to find another sport. Pratt was devastated by the news. “I remember putting down the phone and starting to cry,” she says. Running had become more meaningful than Pratt could ever have imagined.

She tried to accept his diagnosis, but after a period of discouragement, she decided to seek another opinion. That’s what led her to Robert Klitzman, MD, a sports medicine physician and orthopedic surgeon at Indiana University Health Physicians Orthopedics & Sports Medicine.

“I specifically chose him because I wanted a doctor who was a runner himself,” Pratt says. That choice was the beginning of the road back to running. After examining her knee and studying her MRIs, Klitzman thought her meniscus was fine. They discussed her goals and her running history.

Klitzman suspected the real source of her knee pain might stem from poor form. With physical therapy to improve her flexibility and stride, he thought Pratt could reduce her pain. And he saw no reason for her to discontinue running or have surgery.

Klitzman also had the foresight to send her to Jan George, PT, DPT, OCS, a physical therapist at IU Health Saxony and a veteran marathoner. “She is fantastic,” says Pratt, who worked with George for four to six months. “My form really needed improvement and I wasn’t as flexible as I could be, so I was putting wear and tear on my IT band.”

In our next post, learn how physical therapy helped Pratt return to running, stronger than she was before her injury.