Hitting the road again after a broken leg

Daniel, our marathon-running physiotherapist, shares his first-hand experience of the long-road back to running after breaking his leg, and explains why he now enjoys rehabilitating patients with Achilles tendinopathy

In 2016 I broke my leg playing footy. It was the last practice game before the season and I was the fittest I’d ever been, it was very disappointing as it meant I missed the whole season.

The injury resulted in me breaking my left fibula and spraining my syndesmosis. It’s the syndesmosis that was the severe injury that required surgery. I had to get a syndesmosis screw, which stayed in for 3 months to help keep the tibia and fibula together at the base.

Over this time frame I was non-weight bearing for six weeks then weaning out of boot for the next six weeks, After 3 months I went back in for surgery to remove the screw and I was then able to bear weight for the next six weeks.

Building up strength

I completed strengthening and began gradually building up my walking, which felt really good.

And then my expectations got the better of myself. About six weeks after surgery I started running again in small doses which felt pretty good at the time! But on reflection, I still had mobility and strength deficits in the ankle. After about two – three weeks of starting back running I started to develop left achilles pain.

The niggles came back

I didn’t take too much notice of it and thought I’d be able to just push through it like any old running niggle. I was also aiming to play footy the next season, so I was pushing myself to train 1-2 x weekly. But the achilles pain got worse and worse until eventually, I had to stop running as it got too sore.

At that stage, I had developed insertional Achilles Tendinopathy with retrocalcaneal bursitis. Over the space of the next six months, I fluctuated with my exercises and activity levels. My pain worsened to a stage where it was painful to walk. So, I placed myself back in a moon boot to offload the tendon. But this fed the beast and made it worse, as it meant I lost the strength and mobility in my ankle (again!).

I was feeling very defeated and longing to run and be more physically active. I got a referral to a Sports Physician to help guide my process. It was back to basics with carefully managing my activity levels and slowly building up the strength again. The physician also gave me a cortisone injection which helped break the rut I was in. The numbness and pain reduction from the cortisone let me to load my ankle up again and I hit the gym hard.

Taking it slow

Approximately four weeks after seeing the physician I started running again! And in all my wisdom, I started SLOWLY building up my distance again. I found the right runners to help reduce the strain on my achilles, I did some self-massage and got the help of some fellow Physio’s and most importantly I gradually progressed my exercises!

Approximately one year after surgery, I ran in the Run For The Kids in Melbourne (15km). And 18 months later I ran 2 marathons (Sydney and Melbourne) within a month of each-other at a quick pace. 

Sharing the wisdom of hindsight

This is why I love treating patients with tendinopathies, especially Achilles! So I can say ‘Don’t do what I did’.

Achilles pain sucks and it can be very debilitating physically, mentally, socially and emotionally. It takes away many things you love doing! But it is treatable and there are many factors with Achilles pain that can be controlled. I’d recommend anyone going through Achilles tendinopathy to get onto the pathway of understanding the tendon and building up the capacity of the tendon to withstand whatever life throws at it!

My role as a Physio is to guide this process and help break the vicious cycle that can result from Achilles Tendinopathy.

Treating sports injuries

If you’re suffering with a sports injury or need help making progress to get back to your beloved sport, get in touch with Daniel and the team at Progressive Physiotherapy Group by calling 0497 111 127. We can’t wait to help you back on your feet!