I haven’t posted in a while because I haven’t been riding. Over a year ago I noticed pain coming from my right inside ankle. The pain was noticeable during and after rides, but especially acute on climbs. There was swelling and bruising.
Recovering from this injury taught me a lot about my body and the root cause of my injury. Hint: it wasn’t just about extensive cycling.
After an MRI, my orthopedic doctor informed me that I had a partially torn tibialis ankle tendon. Here’s a picture to help illustrate.
My particular tear was on the right ankle, on the inside, and just below the ankle bone. This needed to be fixed, so surgery was scheduled for Jan 13, 2023.
Turns out the tear was not significant and the surgeon was able to adjust the sheath around the tendon. I was in and out of the surgical center in a half-day and began recovery.
The first few weeks consisted of a lot of discomfort. I had to keep my right foot elevated 24/7, so to make that work, I now took up residence on the living room couch. I’m still working full time, and because I work remotely, I was able to do my job effectively without taking any time off.
Getting around the house presented a small challenge, so I relied on a knee scooter which worked much better than the crutches I had on hand. Without too much difficulty I could navigate the house, the bathroom, the kitchen and the couch. After 10 days I went for my first follow up appointment, had the bandages removed and was fitted for a walking boot.
Another 10 days and I began physical therapy, which was a revelation. My physical therapist determined that the root cause of my injury wasn’t specifically due to my extensive cycling, but more to an imbalance between my left and right sides. My right side was doing more work than my left. My right leg muscles were forcing my right foot to stray in an outward direction, the ankle was collapsing and eventually became sore and then injured.
The takeaway from all this? Your legs bear the brunt of your cycling, and they must be kept flexible in order to avoid pain and injury. My physical therapy worked not on just strengthening the injured ankle, but loosening the right leg and strengthening the left. I was amazed at how much weaker my left leg was than my right.
My therapist also observed that my pelvis was tilting forward, which also contributed to my right side issues. So we worked on a lot of core exercises aimed at correcting this. These exercises continue — I have to make a lifetime commitment to furthering these changes.
One of the changes I’m making is that I’m not relying wholly on cycling for exercise. I’ve added strength training at the gym, and flexibility training using an app on my iPhone called Dynamic Cyclist. There’s no substitute for hours in the saddle, but I’ve learned there’s more to it than just that.