Recovering from a broken leg
5,916 forum posts
The person to ask is Jim S. He has broken or dislocated a whole bunch of things climbing. And he had a really serious leg break in his very first (and only) orienteering event, complete with multiple screws and pins. I probably shouldn't say anything, since I have never broken a bone in my body in my 6+ decades, including almost 5 decades of technical climbing and skiing (tore an ACL once, sprained a toe playing soccer, and, er, ah, broke a few teeth).
Main thing is to work the muscles and joints as much and early as possible, without excessive pain or pushing so hard as to re-injure the area and surroundings. You want to keep strength and flexibility from diminishing too much from inactivity. Also, there is good evidence, I am told by various MD types, for bone growth being better and the break re-healing better when subjected to a certain amount of stress.
Jim can comment on his experiences, but he has gotten back to skiing and climbing. My recollection is that he worked very diligently at keeping as much strength as possible and working hard to regain it after the bones had healed.
On the other end of the scale, a very good friend and colleague was in a car accident last June (car crossed through a hedge divider on a freeway and hit him head-on). He suffered multiple breaks and a serious head injury. The bones are healed, but because of the head injuries and attendant brain damage, he can't stand and walk at this point without a lot of support. His muscles have seriously atrophied, and I suspect it will be a very long time before he regains strength. Up through last ski season, he was still doing extreme skiing (age 66), jumping cornices and the occasional small cliff, with high speed tree skiing on the steeps his favorite. So he was in extremely good shape and health before the accident.
Good luck, and try to work with a sports medicine therapist who knows something about climbing.
Bill S. has it all right. Good advice. I blew my tib in a diagonal compression fracture racing tele OB 2 years ago, right at the beginning of the season. Didn't do them both because I was wearing super-tall, really heavy racing leathers.
My PA cursed, yelled, and threatened me because I would not submit to a cast. Crutches were miserable. I had to rent an automatic tranny car to get to work for three weeks. Didn't walk for two months. I pushed myself around in a chair everywhere I went at work (contractor engineer labor stuff).
As soon as the swelling reduced enough, I put on boots and started lightly weighting it with the crutches and working back to range of motion. Of course, this won't work with a cast. I worked the muscles around the ankle every day for an hour or two (in the hot tub, the wonderful hot tub) to relieve weight stress issues. If it hurts just a little, it's okay. If it hurts more than just a little, it's too much. Rebuild it. Good nutrition, calcium, vitamins, protein. Elevate it at night if you need to to reduce swelling in the morning.
I couldn't tele for 3 months, but got back into hard boots in 7 weeks and took it _really_ easy. They all thought I was nuts. _Really_ easy. Green groomers, boring as shit. I drove with my heel on the clutch since I couldn't bend my ankle properly and with full strength for about 6 months. It's going to take awhile, but work it and go to a soft cast as soon as they offer - or before. If you're committed to healing and rebuilding it, you'll be doing youself a favor. YMMV.
Good luck, and let us know how it goes.
747 forum posts
The person to ask is Jim S. He has broken or dislocated a whole bunch of things climbing. And he had a really serious leg break in his very first (and only) orienteering event, complete with multiple screws and pins.
Actually thats a simplified version. I broke the condiles off the back of my tibia and broke open the knee joint after inverting it. The medical term for my knee was "shattered". One of the worlds top bone reconstruction surgeons looked at my cat scans and said, "Do you have any idea how severly damaged your knee is?" then he mumbled about coming in ninteen days after the accident when it had started to heal wrong already. I had an Illazarof device on my knee - its what they put on broken necks sometimes. Its an external ting - a set of three rings screwed to your leg with wires that go through your leg. Each wire has a pea sized steel ball on it that comes up against bone then a hydrolic jack is used to apply 500 pounds of force against the bone and the wire is bolted to the ring. When they were done there was a ton of force pulling the pieces of my knee together but I had no cast and it would bend.
So it sounds like you have any easy injury. You are lucky in fact to have broken the tibia and fibula - they act as a fuse and they're supposed to break to protect the knee from what happened to mine. My knee couldn't have been saved by pre 1990 technology. I broke it in 1996 and they told me I was lucky to have broken it then. Your injury is a pain but bones heal well and relatively quickly.
One of the xray doctors who did my cat scan told me that "They will tell you that you will never ski or climb again, but if you ignore the pain and work through it you will ski again." Two weeks after the surgery I climbed onto my stationary bike in the living room. I managed to put my feet on the pedals but that was all I could do. The next day I got on it again and managed to push the pedal down and around once. The next day I did it twice. In a few weeks I was pedalling 160 rotations in a mid gear range so there was some resistance.
I had the thing on my leg for 12 weeks. After they took it off my leg wouldn't straighten out but no problem - the doc told me that nothing I could do to my leg could hurt it more than not straightening it out. They give you great drugs with a broken leg and after a really hot bath when your body is like rubber things bend and stretch much more easily.
Ignore the pain. Do you know how much pain physical therapy is? Thats because people grew scar tissue from limited range of motion during healing and physical therapy is to make you bend through a normal range of motion afterwards. If you bend through a normal range while you are healing, you won't have to break that scar tissue later. I feel that there is some x amount of pain from any injury and the sooner you start absorbing the pain, the sooner and better you heal, that is as opposed to putting off the pain.
Be an animal. Six months after my surgery my doctor recommended some easy exercise like a stationary bike- when I told him I had been on the bike since two weeks after surgery he was quite shocked. He said "Obviously in some cases early mobility is the answer". Today my knee is completely healed except I can't run cause it just won't take the impact. Makes me meaner ya know - now I have ta grin down the lions and bears.
Thanks to Jim, tradkelly and Bill for giving me valuable advice, today 22 days after the accident and sugery, my range of motion is about 80% back, though I still can't rotate my foot left or right very much as needed for french crampon techniques. I put my body weight on it a little at a time while standing, and the great thing was I got out of my house and had dinner with my girlfriend in a nice restaurant just like we usually do on sundays. Alpine/ice is a big passion of mine and even though I still secretly hope to pop back on the mountain within a month and surprise everyone, but deep down I know I will be missing this season. Hope every stay safe and accomplish whatever climbing goals you set out to do.
747 forum posts
Hows the leg dude?
It won't be long before you're gonna be weighting it some and it will hurt like hell, but the legs decalcify (soften) if they aren't used. Only use will make the body fully repair the long bones. Are you on a stationary bike or anything to keep your leg strong? I'm betting that in a couple weeks you can do a pretty good work out which will make you feel great - of course you will hurt too, but you have to ingore the pain for now. I inverted my knee but I skied a year later and today I climb 5.10b so just keep plugging friend.
Have you learned yet that when you use a cane instead of crutches that you hold the cane in the opposite hand from the injury? As in broken right leg - hold cane in left hand cause it gives you more stable dynamics to have the support on other side with your good leg in the middle.
lets see here - lots of hot baths and hot tubbing - oh and stretch a lot - the worst things is to have a break recover and have the soft tissues all out of shape so you still can't use it.
Jim S (:->)
Broke my left leg(tibia and fibia)on 11/30 in a swinging fall when pro failed. A rod and 4 screws have been inserted and now I'm slowly gaining back my range of motion. Was wondering if anyone can give me any advice (motivation stories even) on how to rehab (quickly?) from something like this? Sick of walking around in crutches. Keen to get back on my feet again and climb the accident route to get it behind me and move on.
Hey, don't give up. I broke my left leg the tibia & fibia on Jan 21, 2003. Like you I had a rod (titanium) and 3 bolts, except for the knee hurting - I was walking pretty good (only limped because of the knee). My theoparist gave me some exercises to do - one was with a big yellow rubber band like and you put it arond the end of your foot & then you pushed your leg out and brought it back in - that really helped.There were more exercises he gave me, if you did't have a theoporist or would just like some more leg strengthening exercises - e-mail me & I'll send you a copy the instructions. They really did help, my only problem is, my body was rejecting the titanum and they found the knee was crushed - so back to surgery, take out all the hardware ( which re-broke the bone) and repair the knee. That was June - still cannot put pressure at all on the leg because the bones are still apart. So you hang in there and when you sitting down exercise the leg!! Rotate the foot in circles one way then the other, it really does help I was walking without cutches, or cane before the second surgery (as far as the broken leg, it was doing great - the knee was just killing me)
Topic: Recovering from a broken leg
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