Methodist Offers 'Endurance Medicine' For Long-Distance Runners, Bikers and Swimmers

Moneek Bennett, a physical therapist with Houston Methodist, tests hip flexibility on Jake Everett, a marathon runner and cyclist.
Houston Methodist Hospital has launched a sports medicine program focused on endurance athletes. The idea is that people who compete in marathons and triathlons suffer different injuries than people who play team sports, and they sometimes have a different attitude towards rehabilitation. 

“So I’m going to just stabilize here and I want you to let your leg just fall down to the table. Perfect.”

It’s the very first physical therapy session for Jake Everett.

Everett works for a pipeline company, but he also has an impressive athletic resume – eight marathons so far, plus he bikes, rock climbs, and skis. 

But he has also racked up some injuries.

A bike crash three years back hurt his right hip, and his Achilles tendon has been bothering him for two years.

But Everett hasn’t sought help until now.

“It scares me because I’m worried that I’m going to do something. I’m going to tear that Achilles tendon, so I really wanted to have that addressed.”

Dr. Joshua Harris is the founder of the new Endurance Medicine program at Houston Methodist.

He says Everett’s story is fairly typical.

He didn’t seek treatment for pain, but out of fear he would have to stop doing something he loved.

“Many endurance athletes do abide by the ‘no pain, no gain’ rule. They will push through pain, and oftentimes, you will find endurance athletes more with injuries like stress fractures.”

Currently, there is only one other Endurance Medicine program in the country, at Ohio State University.

The approach can include surgery or physical therapy, but also looks at an athlete’s diet, psychology and physiology.

The doctors at Methodist are also conducting research. Again, Dr. Harris:

“We’re looking: does running cause hip arthritis? Does running cause knee arthritis? Does running cause ankle arthritis? Those are kind of the three big ones that we’re working on currently at this time.”

Everett says he was attracted to the program because he felt the doctors there would understand his mindset.

He didn’t want to be told to simply take Advil and stop running for a while.

“I think a lot of endurance athletes and especially marathoners are like that. We don’t want to take time off unless there’s something that’s going to truly debilitate us. I felt like they would understand that and that’s why I wanted to go there and be with somebody that understand my desires and my needs as a 45-year-old athlete.” 

Everett will undergo four weeks of physical therapy, to strengthen weak muscle groups and stretch areas where scar tissue might be hampering his stride.

But Dr. Harris says another goal of the program is to prevent injuries, and he and his colleagues will get the message out by speaking at running and triathlon clubs around Houston.

Harris says knowing when and how to stretch, when to use heat and ice, and how to listen to your body can go a long way.

And yes, he’s one of them. He’s training for an Ironman in the Woodlands in 2015. 

Bio photo of Carrie Feibel

Carrie Feibel

Health & Science Reporter

Carrie Feibel is KUHF's health and science reporter. She comes to Houston Public Radio after ten years as a print reporter...