Rediscovering the joy of running after knee surgery

Discover David Sutter’s inspiring journey after knee surgery as he preps for a half-marathon. Learn how he overcame pain to pursue his passion for running.

A year after knee surgery, David Sutter has his eyes on the calendar. His target? The CNO Financial Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon this November, a 13.1-mile race that winds through a variety of downtown neighborhoods.

“I would love to run in that event,” David said following his surgery and physical therapy in 2023. “My last race was the Kentucky Derby Festival miniMarathon in 2021. I’ve always enjoyed running. It’s been a part of my life for a long time.”

Although he does not recall a specific moment or a reason why, David began experiencing left knee pain in the months following his Derby Festival race in Louisville, Kentucky. Initially, he chose to rest the knee, taking breaks from his regular routine. While this approach eased his discomfort during normal day-to-day activities, pain would return whenever he would run more than a short distance.

“I continued to go downhill,” said David, of Madison, Indiana. “I would get frustrated and have to stop.”

After two years of an on-again, off-again approach, his wife, Kate, an avid runner herself, suggested that he make an appointment to find out what was wrong.

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“Basically, she told me to either stop complaining or get it checked out,” David said. Enter Nathan Polley, M.D., orthopedic surgeon with Norton King’s Daughters’ Health.

Following an X-ray and examination, Dr. Polley scheduled an MRI of David’s left knee to confirm what he suspected: a loose bony ossicle that was rubbing against adjacent bone surfaces, causing discomfort and inflammation. According to Dr. Polley, an ossicle is bone tissue that should not be there, generally caused when bones do not completely fuse together.

Ossicles don’t always cause symptoms. Dr. Polley compared them to having a small pebble in your shoe: It may not bother you until it does, and then it can be quite painful.

For David, Dr. Polley’s recommended course of treatment involved surgical intervention followed by physical therapy.

“Dr. Polley was spot on from the moment we began talking,” David said. “The MRI confirmed what he suspected. I was scheduled for surgery just over a week later and began therapy the week after that. The entire team was very flexible with my schedule.”

Flexibility was critical for his success, given David’s role as Jefferson County, Indiana, prosecuting attorney. He had to fit therapy sessions between court appearances and a variety of other duties.

Jonathon Schroeder, P.T., DPT, served as David’s primary physical therapist at Norton King’s Daughters’ Health Rehabilitation Center, helping him regain strength, balance and agility.

“Within a month, he was able to walk normally and use the stairs,” Jonathon said. “We added plyometric and agility exercises in late March 2023 that he needed to eventually return to running.”

Norton Sports Health is a presenting sponsor and the official medical provider for the GE Appliances Kentucky Derby Festival miniMarathon and Marathon. Norton Sports Health also provides a free training program that prepares runners for the race in April. The free, 15-week program offers training tips and weekly group runs for participants of all levels of experience. To learn more about Norton Sports Health and other events and services supported, visit

By the end of April, David had returned to playing with his children and had begun jogging and running. At that point, he felt he had progressed enough to discontinue therapy sessions. Jonathon provided some additional home exercises to complete David’s plan of care.

Today, David is pain-free and focused on regaining a more regular running routine that will lead toward his goal of completing another race.

“I like to run downtown by the river,” he said. “It’s a beautiful location with a lot of options. Downtown Madison is a wonderful place to exercise. I also enjoy running at the state hospital. You can overlook the river.”

While running together can prove challenging with three young children, David hopes Kate can join him this November for the Monumental. Family time and shared activities are important to him. He loves to play baseball and basketball with his kids. He even helps coach his son’s teams whenever he can.

“We like to run together,” he said of the couple’s shared passion. “I would love for us to run that event together.”

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