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How long after a sprain to boulder? (New climber)

Original Post
Becca Crompton · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2017 · Points: 0

Recently started bouldering (at the start of the new year) and about 3.5 weeks ago I sent a new, tough problem... I'd deadpointed up and there was nothing easy to downclimb so ended up jumping from fairly high (maybe 2.5m from foot to mat). I rolled my ankle and immediately felt the pain and got off the mat and iced it. I was able to limp home that night (1.5 miles) without too many problems, it was sore but manageable. 

After a week of icing and taping I was still unable to walk without a limp and went to see an Orthopaedist and got an X ray. They said there could be a tiny fracture but it was probably just a sprain and not to do too much. I've done as little as possible since then but unfortunately I'm a freelancer and have to travel for work sometimes so I haven't been able to avoid using the foot completely. I also went on a cycling holiday as it had been booked for ages but my ankle felt fine cycling by that point (2 weeks after the injury). 

However I'm not 3.5 weeks in and while it's improving, progress is SO slow and I'm not sure it's normal. I bought an ankle brace but it won't go under shoes so I wear it when I'm home. My ankle aches if I do a lot of walking/standing but is never really painful. However I can only just get downstairs and have to sort of hop off the dodgy foot still. I am also completely unable to do a single heel raise on that side, it's not painful I just physically can't get my heel off the ground. Stretching my achilles is uncomfortable too.

My plan is to keep cycling as much as possible but I love running and bouldering too and would like to get back to them asap. I think I could climb right now without a lot of pain but I'm concerned that jumping off anything, even from a few feet, would reinjure the ankle and in all honesty I'm not very good at bouldering! (Finally sent a couple of V2s right before getting hurt) so I'm apprehensive about climbing if there isn't going to be much I'm 100% confident downclimbing. 

Anyone experienced a similar injury? What was your recovery time? Should I go back to the ortho?

FrankPS · · Atascadero, CA · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 275
Becca Crompton wrote:

 I go back to the ortho?


unemployed astronaut · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2017 · Points: 0

I've sprained both ankles pretty bad bouldering, both times it was about a month before I started rope climbing again and at least 2-3 months before I got back to bouldering. I'd say if you aren't comfortable running and jumping you shouldn't be bouldering yet

Andrewww · · Concord, NH · Joined Mar 2014 · Points: 625

sprains are nasty things. can take anywhere from 6 months to a year and a half to full recovery depending on the severity

Mark Wyss · · Denver, CO · Joined Jan 2001 · Points: 255

I have a similar injury right now.  I took a fall and rolled my ankle as well.  My ortho doc took a look at the x-rays and said there might be a tiny fracture in my talus so he ordered an MRI to make sure.  Also to check to see that nothing tore.  Turns out that its just a bone bruise.  What appeared to be the small fracture in the x-ray was excessive bruising in my ankle. (In fact I tore a ligament in the same ankle 3 years ago so have some experience in this area) .  If you google it those injuries typically take 8ish weeks for recovery.  I've been on crutches and in a boot for a few weeks now.  I am definitely having some of the same stretching issues you are having  

I'll second what Frank said, go back to the doc.  It doesn't sound like he is dotting his I's and crossing his T's if he is just saying he "thinks" there might be a break and sending you on your way.  Push for that MRI and maybe get a second opinion?  These injuries suck but be patient, keep icing it and immobilize the joint to the best of your ability.

Good luck on your recovery!  

Becca Crompton · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2017 · Points: 0

Thanks guys. The ortho did say to come back in a week if the pain doesn't improve and they'd re X-ray it but I was too busy and the pain did improve! It's just surprised me because while I've had lots of sports injuries I've never had something where I was able to walk properly for so long without being able to move forwards at all with running/other sports. I feel 100% while walking now (little ache if it's over 2 miles but that's all) but even trying a tiny two footed jump (literally an inch from the ground) is super painful and, as I said, I can't lift my heel at all. I'll book another appointment... I pay enough for healthcare, may as well use it!

Lena chita · · Cleveland, OH · Joined Mar 2011 · Points: 735

Hopefully you are going back to the ortho.

If there was a "tiny fracture", it can take 6-8 weeks to heal. My husband broke his ankles twice -- once in a bad landing while bouldering, once in a hard catch on a sport route. In both cases he was told to wear an air boot for about 4 weeks (And at 4-5 weeks they re-checked the X-rays and told him that he could start PT). But for at least a couple of months after that he had some pain when walking.

I had a bad sprain once, and it was ~4 weeks off, followed by PT. When I first started climbing after the time off, I was toproping, and wearing the soft velcro brace OVER my climbing shoe (it doesn't fit inside the climbing shoe) and I had to go to looser-fitting shoe on the injured foot, because  I couldn't put a tight shoe on. I don't think I tried bouldering for about 4-6 months after the sprain, but I don't remember exactly, it was many years ago. I was able to climb (sport) without any trouble long before I was able to walk without trouble. E.i. I was wearing a brace to hike to the crag, because my ankle was prone to rolling, but I was able to climb without a brace.

Vaughn · · Colorado · Joined Mar 2011 · Points: 50

Sometimes ankle sprains take a really long time to heal. Especially once you are past your mid 20's. Unfortunately bouldering is hard on your body and as you know your ankles. I would not go bouldering again until you are feeling really good about the level of recovery (a few months at least). Get a rope and start top roping if you really want to get back at it.

You should definitely go back to your orthopedist given the possibility of a fracture, and the fact that he told you to.

Here is a really good article about ankle sprains and recovery: Management of Ankle Sprains

Baba Fats · · Philadelphia, PA · Joined Aug 2016 · Points: 0

I'd go back to the doc, like others said.  A buddy of mine was trying to hack a new beta for a v6 problem at my gym, and repetitively fell on his shoulder.  He thought a week off would be fine, but it turns out that he has a Labral tear.  He'll be out for at least 2 months.  You definitely want to make sure it's only a sprain, and not be treating a break or tear less than you need to be doing.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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