Osteitis Pubis. Sports Hernia. Athletic Pubalgia. These three terms refer to a set of conditions that result in groin pain in athletes. They all have slightly different nuances, but all of them mean you shouldn't be running.
I briefly touched on this in a previous blog post, but I will get into all the details here.
How it started
In July 2019, I had a bike accident while on vacation in Norway. The bike tire got caught on a rail track, stopped the bike, and I fell onto the pike, bashing my pelvis into the bike bar with a ton of force. This resulted in massive bruising, a ton of pain, and 9 days off from running. I went to several doctors at the
The damage from this accident never healed completely. Sometimes I would wake up in the middle of the night with my pubic bone aching. I could never do a sit-up without my lower abdominals feeling strained. Certain adductor exercises were painful or not even possible.
But it didn't impact my running or my daily life; it was sort of lingering in the background Since the accident I have run 4 marathons (CIM, Boston Virtual, Harrisburg, and Two Rivers). I did irritate it during CIM, but it was silent after Boston Virtual and Harrisburg. But due to the slant of the road at Two Rivers, the adductor finally said "I've had enough!" I think that was the breaking point.
I did have some warning signs before the marathon, though. After my long runs throughout March I would feel a tenderness in the groin area. And once I felt some groin pain at the end of a 22-miler.
Immediately after the marathon, the left side of my pubic bone was in a lot of pain, but it subsided within 24 hours. And then I took a week off of running and I felt 100% normal walking around. I actually did quite a bit of walking at the chess tournament (one week after the marathon), logging over 8,000 steps, and felt completely normal.
When I returned to running, my pubic bone area started to hurt right away. It wasn't severe-- it was about a 2 out of 10 on the pain scale. The lower abdominal muscles were also a bit tender. Since I was just coming back from the marathon, I kept these runs slow and short. And I didn't run every day. I think it was a total of 5 short runs over a 9 day period before cutting it off completely. The last of these runs was my longest: a 5-miler. After that run, I began to feel the pain while walking. I have not run since April 13.
I went to a doctor and my sports chiro and ultimately ended up getting an MRI (this was after the mandatory X-ray needed by insurance). I wish I had gotten an MRI immediately after the bike accident so I would have known I needed some rehab, but I didn't advocate for myself with the doctors. And they reassured me it would heal with no problems.
MRI Results + Diagnosis
This is taken from the report:
Pelvic joints: There is joint space narrowing and marginal osteophytosis
with subtle erosive centered on the pubic symphysis. Marrow edema noted at
the pubic bone centered on the pubic symphysis and there is
within the pubic symphyseal recesses. The hip joints are preserved. Small
bilateral joint effusions are seen in the right and left hips. No prominent
anterior superior superior labral tears are identified.
Image from Sports Injury Bulletin
Muscles/Tendons: There is focal high-grade partial-thickness tearing of the rectus abdominus adductor longus aponeurotic insertion on the left pubic bone (series 2, image 10). The visualized muscles and tendons are normal.
When I first read the report, I panicked. It sounded like there was a crap ton of stuff wrong! I was particularly worried about the bone marrow edema because that can become a stress fracture. The high-grade tearing of the muscle/tendon was also alarming.
After I had my PT and doctor interpret this, it didn't sound so horrible. Key findings:
- Osteitis Pubis - inflammation in the area around the pubic synthesis
- Partial tear of the adductor muscle at the insertion point
- Bone marrow edema
I have been in physical therapy for three weeks now. I am working with a pelvic floor specialist and she's given me a ton of exercises. We have done blood flow restriction and dry needling. The dry needling was like torture. She has dry needled my adductor, my pelvic floor, my abdominals, and my hamstring. OUCH! But that needling has honestly brought about the best results.
- Single leg deadlift (no weight yet)
- Squats with a band wrapped around my upper back, anchored to a weight rack
- Kegel exercises
- Bear stance hold
- A 3-part clamshell type exercise
- Calf "crunches" with a band to improve ankle range of motion
- Toe yoga to improve balance
- Squeezing a soccer ball between my feet
The doctor couldn't give me a definite timeline and he couldn't even guarantee that the tear will heal itself. He said it would likely heal without surgery if I do my PT exercises regularly. At this point, the earliest I would start running again (and by running I mean a gradual run-walk introduction) would be the end of May. Early June is probably more likely.
Worst case scenario would be surgery or simply taking 3+ months to heal. The longest I have ever taken off for an injury was 5 weeks back in 2009 when I had peroneal tendonitis. That's maybe tied with my stress fractures from 2011. I think that was 4-5 weeks, too.
I've taken 3 months off due to mono on multiple occasions, but I've never had to take more than 5 weeks for an injury. I guess I should be glad this isn't mono and I know it's going to heal 100%. It just requires extreme patience. The silver lining is that I will be stronger when I come back because of the daily focus I have on stability, strength, and mobility exercises.
Attitude and Perspective
Compared to previous injuries and bouts of mono, I am not that upset about this one. Even though it's the worst injury I've had - I am tolerating it much better. Why?
- I felt like I needed a long break after the extended training cycle for Two Rivers. I ran 3 extra weeks at 75+ miles each, and I think those 3 extra weeks took a physical and mental toll.
- I don't have any races on the calendar
- Summer is coming up, so I wasn't planning on setting any PRs in the near future
- I have always set massive PRs after coming back from mono, so I think a long break will ultimately lead to a breakthrough in fitness
- I can enjoy the extra time by honing my chess skills and tackling other projects around the house