Zane Robertson: from rehab to running the 2018 Commonwealth Games

A team of consultants and physiotherapists at BMI Hendon Hospital have been treating bronze medallist Zane Robertson for a spate of running injuries. With his sights set on the 2018 Commonwealth Games, can he make a full recovery?

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Middle and long-distance runner Zane Robertson's injuries have taken him from his home in Kenya to London's BMI Hendon Hospital, where he's been undergoing intensive physiotherapy so he can get back to training.

The Commonwealth bronze medallist from New Zealand currently lives and trains in Iten, Kenya. "My injuries all started back in early June 2017 when I rolled my ankle on a morning run in the Iten forest. When I came here [London] I thought I just had plantar fasciitis – I'd also fractured my fibula, my calcaneal heel and I sprained four ligaments.

"My high pain threshold is a blessing and a curse," says Zane. "It means I can handle a lot during races, but when I get serious injuries it means I normally run through them until I end up in a situation like this. I told my team Athletics New Zealand if I feel any discomfort, it's time to get an MRI so I can avoid this in the future."

Getting an athlete back on his feet

In November 2017, Zane was flown to London by his team for treatment at Hendon Hospital. Zane's diagnosis was to undergo a broad range of treatments including whole body cryotherapy, sessions on the Alter-G anti-gravity treadmill, shockwave therapy, electrical muscle stimulation, deep tissue massage and taping.

Zane Robertson at BMI Hendon Hospital

My high pain threshold is a blessing and a curse

Before treatment, Zane had established a goal: to upgrade his 2014 bronze medal from the Glasgow Games to gold in Australia. The challenge was not only getting back to running but training for this year's Commonwealth Games in Australia.

"Time is a factor for me. If I can't be running the full programme again in February, the chance to race in the Commonwealth Games is looking slim," said Zane.

The treatments

Each treatment Zane had helped to target specific injuries, build strength or enabled other treatments to work even more effectively.

Whole body cryotherapy

Louise Spence, Clinical Services Manager for Physiotherapy at BMI Hendon Hospital said, "The whole body cryotherapy reduces the pain that Zane's experiencing in his heel, but also allows him to tolerate the other treatments, such as shockwave and soft tissue treatments."

Zane Robertson and Louise Spence at BMI Hendon Hospital

Electrical muscle stimulation

This was used on Zane's right glute to target weaknesses and imbalances in the glute down to his ankle, while taping helped to alleviate pressure on his foot.

AlterG anti-gravity treadmill

"As plantar fasciitis is an injury of overload to the sole of the foot, we use the Alter-G anti-gravity treadmill so Zane can keep using his foot," said Louise. The system can reduce someone's body weight by 80%, therefore meaning they are only 20% weight bearing. "It allows Zane to walk, run or do weight-bearing exercises at a load we're happy with."

Going for gold

Following his intensive week of rehabilitation, Zane returned to Kenya in November with a programme recommended by his physiotherapists to ensure his recovery was quick but steady.

"I've been lucky here. It's been useful to find out why these additional injuries came about in the first place so I can avoid it in the future. My experience here has been above and beyond. People have been going out of their way to make me feel comfortable."

Zane Robertson in training

His recovery was so successful that he was able to go back to full training for the Commonwealth Games, which begins on Australia's Gold Coast on 6th April 2018.

"It was always the plan to get back to full training in February and training is going very well," said Zane. "My schedule for the build-up requires a lot of consistency and quality for one or two months is a must.

Thanks to the work at BMI Hendon I'm able now to manage the tendon pain and knowledge of where to go forward from here

"I've been going on a lot of long runs, around 30-40km, at quite a moderate effort to a fast pace. Marathon training also requires hard speed work sessions with a lot of volume, so I'm doing 12 x 1 km runs or 7 x 3km runs with 1km recoveries.

"Thanks to the work at BMI Hendon I'm able now to manage the tendon pain and knowledge of where to go forward from here."

You can follow Zane's progress in Australia on the official Commonwealth Games website

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