Sunday, September 11, 2022

Deltoid Ligament Sprain? No! It's the Tibialis Posterior

R tibilais posterior
A patient who came in to see me yesterday was diagnosed with a deltoid ligament sprain in his left ankle. He had seen a doctor who referred him to a surgeon. An MRI was ordered, but all came back normal. The surgeon referred him for physiotherapy to treat his deltoid ligament.

L deltoid ligament from Dr R LaPrade JBJS
Here's what the patient told me. He was training for the Ironman 70.3 triathlon in Cebu, Philippines on August 7th, 2022. He had done a lot of  *'brick' training prior to the pain in his left ankle. Triathletes will know that *'brick' workouts are cycling followed by running straight after dismounting to simulate race conditions. One day before the race he felt a sharp left calf pain. As a result, he had to walk the whole run (21.1 km) during his race. Thereafter, after returning to Singapore, the inside part of his left ankle started hurting.

I assessed his ankle joint and his ankle proproception and both were good. No tenderness over the deltoid (inner) and outer ankle ligaments. There was however some tenderness behind his left medial malleolus (that bone sticking out at the inside ankle region) and definitely along his tibalis posterior muscle. Much more than his right ride. 

Single-leg heel raise (SLHR) test ability on the left elicited pain too. Bingo! For the physiotherapists and clinicians reading this, you may already know what is wrong with my patient. He had a problem with his left tibialis posterior. Yes, the same tibialis posterior muscle that can cause the dreaded shin splints and your arches to "collapse". Definitely not a deltoid ligament sprain in his case.

The SLHR test was described by a study (Ross et al, 2021) as one of 4 clinical tests to find out if a patient has tibialis posterior tendinopathy. The other 3 are; pain on tendon palpation, swelling around the tendon and pain and/or weakness with tibialis posterior muscle contraction.

My patient was happy to know that he can resume running after I treated him. 


Ross, MH, Smith MD, Mellor R  et al (2021). Clinical Tests Of Tibilailis Posterior Tendinopathy: Are They Reliable, And How Are They Reflected In Structural Changes On Imaging? J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 51(5): 253-260. DOI: 10.2519/jospt.2019.9707

Picture by
*Brick training- short form for bike-run-in-combination. Perhaps also because it was name after a world champion duathlete and surgeon Dr Matt Brick who came up with the term whem he described his bike-run and run-bike training sessions while training for a duathlon race

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