Earlier this year I treated a patient who ran the Houston Marathon and jumped right into training for the upcoming triathlon season the following week, against my advice, while nursing a painful case of posterior tibial tendon tendonitits. Unfortunately, this approach eventually sidelined him and forced him to scrap the entire triathlon season in order to undergo surgery and recover from his injury. This led to a case of depression which far outlasted his recovery from injury and almost kept him out indefinitely.

By nature, athletes have an extremely high tolerance for pain and at times tend to view their injuries as a normal part of their training regimen often to the point of ignoring serious symptoms. Posterior tibial tendonitis is a common injury in runners usually resulting from chronic overpronation and overuse caused by the repetitive force and trauma asociated with overtraining. Symptoms usually begin as soreness along the inside of the ankle and/or arch when pushing off and can eventually lead to weakness and severe pain. Left untreated, it can progress to a tear which usually requires lengthy immobilization or surgical intervention causing a major delay in any training regimen. However, if the injury is caught early and treated aggressively, it can be done without any interruption or possibly a slight, brief alteration in the training schedule while avoiding a lengthy delay which can spoil any runner's plans.

In this particular case, my patient underwent approximately 8 weeks of physical therapy, anti-inflammatories, and forced rest. During this time he became discouraged, angry, and unmotivated, even though I recommended cross training to maintain at least some level of fitness so that his return to running would not be so traumatic. He resisted the entire time and even admitted to feeling "worthless" at one point. Once he was pain free, he was still afraid to resume running for fear he would reinjure his foot and it would sideine him again.

About 3 months after stopping running completely to rehabilitate from his injury, he began cycling, swimming and using the elliptical machine gradually. He later resumed running starting at a much reduced distance than where he left off, and he is starting to regain confidence and a sense of self worth.

He now realizes what caused his depression and I have no doubt that he will return stronger than ever. More importantly, I think the lesson he learned and one that all athletes should learn, particularly runners, is not to ignore any injury. No matter how small or insignificant you may think the injury is, it can become significant if it is not addressed early and aggressively. The resulting depression from the mental trauma of having something so meaningful and enjoyable taken away can lead to an even more prolonged layoff from which you may never fully recover, long after the injury has healed.