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Climbing with boot after injury

Original Post
Alexei Kissell · · Denver, CO · Joined May 2017 · Points: 0

I broke my tib/fib at the end of March, when I fell at a bouldering gym.  I got a plate and 9 screws in my leg now and was just cleared to start weight bearing.  My doctor said that I need to wear the boot for a week or two, as I get used to walking again, and then I can wear street shoes.  Has anyone climbed with a boot on?  Feel free to discourage me from doing it, I'm just looking for some people with experience.  My doctor gives me nearly no information, he just said the bones healed perfectly.  

Jay Eggleston · · Denver · Joined Feb 2003 · Points: 17,882

I have climbed with one when I broke my ankle but, only on top rope.

D-Storm · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2007 · Points: 295

I've climbed with a boot after two different injuries—once for a cracked tarsal in my left foot, and again after I broke my right ankle. Impacts are the main concern, so it was all roadside stuff on toprope or on overhanging sport routes where I wouldn't hit anything if I fell. It made for a funny challenge and I was forced to improve on techniques like flagging and balancing/standing up on one leg, etc. Good luck with the recovery!

patto · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2012 · Points: 25

I've climbed with a cam boot while my foot was still broken.  There is no reason why you can't climb with just 3 limbs.  But I'd get your regular walking strength without the boot before you use that foot for climbing.

If you bones have heal fine then your progression back to full health should be fairly rapid.  I've broken several bones nothing as bad as tib/fib but the principle remains the same.  If the bones are heal then recovery is just getting your muscles back into shape because of the weeks/months they've been inactive.

If you are young fit and healthy then you most likely can take the boot off now or very soon.  Your muscles will have atrophied but the quicker you get them working again the quicker you recover.

**Not a doctor.  Just somebody who has broken several bones and managed my own recovery.

CanDillo · · The Great State -Colorado · Joined Oct 2009 · Points: 280

I broke my right distal tib last year. I climbed with a boot in the gym( very lightly) or with one leg, on the non-broken one on top rope about a week after I was weight bearing. I had a clean non-displaced fracture so I didn't have too much trouble with pain until out of my boot. However, I had a lot of naysayers saying I would injure my rotater cuffs in my shoulders, climbing with one foot, with a boot etc. Stick to slightly overhanging routes and big jugs. (helps prevent errant bangs into the wall or holds with the boot. Which healed or not, hurt like a bitch)  However, the time I spent climbing and strengthening my ankle and did pay dividends. I'm 11 months post break and I'm climbing harder and running further than before. It's all a matter or your end goal and making sure you work hard on your mobility. I will say, it took nearly a full 4-6 months to get 100% of my leg strength back and stop having tendon/ligament pain. Make sure with your climbing to hit the mobility, PT and stretching just as hard. Good luck!

jmmlol · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Nov 2016 · Points: 0

One footed climbing is one of the best ways to improve. Super lowball traversing is good assuming a 1 foot fall isn't going to hurt.

John Barritt · · OKC · Joined Oct 2016 · Points: 1,053

Just wait...............

FrankPS · · Atascadero, CA · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 275

Don't risk it.

Stagg54 Taggart · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2006 · Points: 10

climbed in a boot after tearing a ligament in my ankle.  Edges really well.  Can't smear worth a damn.

patto · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2012 · Points: 25
John Barritt wrote:

Just wait...............

Wait for what?

FrankPS wrote:

Don't risk it.

Risk what?  He is no longer 'injured'.

I'm all for conservative treatment letting your body recover but the bones have already healed.  Now is the stage where he needs to retrain and re strengthening is muscles/tendons etc.  No different from regular training just starting from a lower base.

And just like regular training rest is just as important as activity.  But if he is capable and confident of walking without a boot then he should start as soon as possible.

I've been there.  My first proper walk (20mins on flat ground) was quite hard on my muscles but muscles repair and regrow quickly in response to use.

Alexei Kissell · · Denver, CO · Joined May 2017 · Points: 0
patto wrote:

Risk what?  He is no longer 'injured'.

That's what I was thinking as well. I'm dealing with some pretty atrophied left leg muscles, worst of which is my heal. So my friend told me he'd belay me if I found some proof of people top roping in a boot and not further injuring themselves. I appreciate the insight!

I'm a girl... the name throws everyone off. 

Jordan W · · NC · Joined Mar 2017 · Points: 10

Ease into it slowly... I have pretty much the exact same hardware in my left leg (from mid shin to my ankle). I honestly would take it easy on climbing for a while until you've re-built your tendons and muscles. My leg looked like a twig for months afterwards. It's not so much a problem with putting weight on your leg, but more of a problem the way your ankle gets torqued when climbing. Torquing and locking off your leg in certain situation will stress the hardware in your leg and cause some discomfort. The bone may be completely healed, but I would guarantee you it's not super hard just yet. With time the bone will grow around the hardware and it will be easier to manage and will get stronger. My injury was about 7yrs ago and after long, hard days or hiking 10miles or so a day on hard terrain the bottom of my ankle will be black and purple, I quit skateboarding completely (how I broke it), shock loading that leg doesn't feel right to this day.  Doesn't really hurt anymore but it's definitely not the same, it probably won't ever be exactly the same so don't get too discouraged, it's a long, slow process. Personally, I would do plenty of walking and stretching, light leg workouts, etc for at least a month, probably more to be realistic, and then slowly get back into on top rope... I wouldn't climb in a boot at all honestly, I think that's way too early from my experience with the issue. I'm not saying NOT to do it all, but I would think long and hard about it and make an honest assessment for yourself. The absolute last thing you want to do is re-injure your leg and have them go back in there. I feel for you brother, I really do, but you gotta be smart... If you're still in a boot, I personally think it's too early. 

Mark E Dixon · · Sprezzatura, Someday · Joined Nov 2007 · Points: 554

There are so many people climbing at the BRC with boots, casts, splints etc that we've joked that they should lend them out at the front desk.

Toproping for the most part. Seems like bouldering would be a bad idea.

I did see a very strong female climber on the grey wall (overhanging) at Movement onsighting my projects while in an ortho walking boot.

Edited to add-

Turns out it was Courtney Sanders 

John Barritt · · OKC · Joined Oct 2016 · Points: 1,053
patto wrote:

Wait for what? get the boot off.

Girl climbs in boot......slips off hold and injures good ankle. Gets new boot for other leg. 

There's no patience anymore. JB


SMarsh · · NY, NY · Joined Sep 2013 · Points: 3

I never regretted the exercise I got after breaking my tib/fib.  I focused on bicycling and walking/hiking, but I can see the wish to climb.

I'd ensure that you don't fall on the just-healed leg, so maybe top-roping would do.  Along with the exercise routine of Courtney Sanders (awesome), you would have less time inactive and a quicker re-build.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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