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Advice for a broken leg and ankle
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May 12, 2013
So I broke my ankle and tib/fib bouldering. I was just wondering what advice folks have for dealing with this process both mentally and physically. I'll be unable to put weight on it for six weeks and probably unable to walk for about two months. Have been thinking about lots of pullups, hangboard, pushups and such. Would really love to hear how people have dealt with an injury like this, especially the mental side. Thanks in advance. JacobD
From Flagstaff, AZ
Joined Jun 18, 2006
760 points
May 12, 2013
I broke my femur a while back.

As for coping now, I say just enjoy the time chilling, and stay as active as you can. Do as much as you can safely do while injured.

When you are getting better, the best advice: work really hard at the physical therapy. Six weeks of immobility creates an astounding amount of muscle wastage. I got bored doing the PT after couple of months, so I still have some lost mobility to this day.

You don't want that to happen.

Some people will still go hang with their friends at the gym or the roadside crag when injured. This might be a good idea. I let my broken leg knock me out of climbing for far too long, because I stopped doing all climbing related stuff for a long time.
From Highlands Ranch, CO
Joined Dec 16, 2012
283 points
May 12, 2013
Sorry to hear. First of all treat the process (rehab especially) as an opportunity to come out stronger and more psyched. You have to find the silver lining somewhere. Secondly, isolate the bad leg if possible (cast?, brace, discipline) and go climb one legged at the gym. It is amazingly effective and you'll get unbelievably strong. Make sure you have an attentive belayer who you can trust. You'll need soft landings when you're lowered. RMT
Joined Jul 14, 2008
0 points
May 12, 2013
Work the rest of your body as much as you can, but also use it as an opportunity to take a break. Rest your muscles a bit for a couple months and then get back at it fully. Honestly it's somewhat relieving not feeling like you HAVE TO go out and do something dangerous every time you're free. I broke my ankle on May 31st a few years ago and was climbing in the gym by mid August and outside by October. I wish I had done more hand exercises in my downtime, so get some captains of crush or something. Evan S
From Erie, CO
Joined Dec 30, 2007
275 points
May 12, 2013
I busted my ankle climbing a few years back, so I know how it feels. You can still TR (with a courteous belayer who pulls up lots of slack when you're close to the ground), and after 6 weeks you can boulder cautiously. Hangboards, controlled campusing (VERY controlled - get ready to land on your good foot and roll in the direction of your good foot), and core exercises are all good for staying physically fit, and for staying psychologically fit nothing beats "Rocky" montages. Don't measure yourself against how you walked/ran/climbed 1 months ago; measure yourself against how you walked/ran/climbed 1 week. Seriously, though, sing "Eye of the Tiger" as you're doing ankle rehab and get hilariously epic as you slowly put weight on your foot and walk across the room for the first time.

Get psyched, and get well soon! Oh, and don't tell your doctor that you've been climbing while in the cast. They don't take too kindly to that... :D
Alex Washburne
Joined Apr 29, 2010
10 points
May 12, 2013
Watch for substance problems if you're prone. Alcohol and or drugs can seem like just ticket when hurt/depressed/bored. asdrubal
From Rifle, CO
Joined Aug 11, 2008
0 points
May 12, 2013
Climbing while still in a cast sounds like a really bad idea. Even in a gym. FrankPS
From Atascadero, CA
Joined Nov 19, 2009
15 points
May 12, 2013
Broke mine a few years ago, but I'm alot older so healing took a bit longer.DO NOT skimp on the physical therapy lessons,,,,keep them going on your own at home long after the insurance covered visits stop. My ankle is still weak and goes out some days, and it's 5 years after the fact now...I know I should have done the therapy much longer to build up strength. Woodchuck ATC
Joined Nov 29, 2007
505 points
May 12, 2013
Rest at first. A couple weeks at least is good. Ease into TRing if you feel good. I've climbed through 2 broken ankles but just healing takes a fair amount of energy at first. Once you're feeling good the hangboard and more TRing is great. I am really conservative on anything that could have impact until I'm healed. Once I'm weight bearing I continued TR climbing in a mountain boot. The swelling takes a long time to go down. Remember you at not performing, just training and having fun. Don't rush into falls! Just my 0.02 Chris Plesko
From Westminster, CO
Joined Oct 18, 2007
245 points
May 12, 2013
Timothy.Klein wrote:
When you are getting better, the best advice: work really hard at the physical therapy. Six weeks of immobility creates an astounding amount of muscle wastage. I got bored doing the PT after couple of months, so I still have some lost mobility to this day. You don't want that to happen.

I totally agree. Physical therapy is so boring but really important. Keep at it until the boring end and do everything they tell you to do. There will come a point when you will feel really good and be tempted to stop only to realize a month or so after that you don't have as much mobility or are not quite as strong as you thought.

The other thing is healing from these injuries take time. Sure in 8 weeks you will be substantially better, but you can feel improvement even after a 2 years.

As far as the mental side goes: just use it as motivation. Remember how shitty you feel. Once you come back from a bad injury, you have no excuse but to live life to the fullest and grab it when it comes your way.

There is no question: it fucking sucks. But it can make you a better person-- and a happier person-- if you let it.

Good luck!

Joined Jul 13, 2011
3,696 points
May 12, 2013
Thanks for all the advice! JacobD
From Flagstaff, AZ
Joined Jun 18, 2006
760 points
May 12, 2013
Just sack up and send Jake! Who needs legs or feet. You can campus 5.12 right? Robbie Brown
From Flagstaff, AZ
Joined Apr 1, 2012
265 points
May 12, 2013
Get this, no joke;

i tore my achilles about 4 years ago and no weight at all for 6 weeks, not even an ounce (which sounds like you're in the same boat).

this rolleraid was a lifesaver. the simplest things from getting from the living room to the kitchen is a PITA on cruches. and you can't even weight your foot for a sec for balance. the rolleraid allowed me move around the house and go for "walks" outdoors and even to job sites. i loved this thing and i think the insurance i had covered it.

good luck with recovery.

and ditto on the rehab. i had to go for 3 months, 3 times a week to learn to walk again and move the foot. but it was well worth it.
david doucette
Joined Nov 29, 2012
5 points
May 13, 2013
It REALLY sucks at first but you can definitely bounce back. I broke my tib & fib 14 months ago ice climbing. I was non weight bearing for 3 1/2 months. The PT makes all the difference in the world. I highly recommend Rob Miller at the Body Shop here in Flag. He's a really good climber and physical therapist, exactly the combo you're looking for. I would suggest contacting the PT office you think you might use to get some pro-active advice on what you can be doing now. Feel free to hit me up if you have any other questions.

Good luck and keep looking forward.
From Flagstaff, AZ
Joined Apr 30, 2007
480 points
May 13, 2013
I took meditation classes while recovering from surgery and unable to climb for 6 months. This helps with staying calm and focused on long term goals and avoiding negative behaviors. Also, reading about or being near climbing/climbers helps maintain the focus. Be religiously disciplined about PT, especially the initial stretching exercises to retain mobility. At some point, after you've started PT, you may want to start a calendar to cross off days until you are climbing again, if that helps you get psyched . You will be back out there sooner than it seems right now. All the best with your recovery! Cindy
From Lakewood, CO
Joined Dec 4, 2006
20 points
May 13, 2013
I broke my foot (multiple bones and ruptured ligaments) that required surgery to fix. I was non-weight bearing for 6 weeks and was in a boot with crutches an additional 5 weeks. For the first 2-3 weeks I just rested and let it heal. At week 3 post op (and to keep my sanity), I lifted weights and core. Never focused on power, but sets of 10-12 to maintain strength. I top-roped routes while wearing a boot. Depending on your situation - have a really good belayer and the personality to be really careful- I highly recommend it. I learned a lot about flags and movement and it helped with strength.

I agree with others about PT. I was diligent with PT and doing all of the exercised prescribed plus I listened to docs advise and was truly non-weight bearing until I got the go-ahead from the surgeon. I followed through with rehabbing for a year and am thankful I did this. I got to about 95% ROM and full strength. The toughest stretch for me was 6 months after. I struggled on crimps and smears so had to be patient while it regained the necessary strength for climbing which is much greater than the strength required for living.

Good luck with the recovery. Feel free to PM if you have any specific questions.
SM Ryan
Joined Jul 20, 2008
1,090 points
May 13, 2013
Several years ago I was leading a straight forward 5.8 and took a 30' fall. Broke several bones in my foot and blew out a disc in my back. I really like RMT's words "...find the silver lining somewhere..."

As many have emphasized, PT is important. What I found to be most helpful with PT was to find a PT who is a climber and discuss recovery and goals. I did this and my exercises were first basic and designed to get me back to baseline, but my physical therapist truly understood what I "needed" and she designed a program specifically for my climbing goals. I strongly recommend finding a PT who is a climber. Every boring exercise I did had significance for getting back out there and my physical therapist explained why the exercises were important for climbing.

You ask about advice for dealing with the process mentally. It may feel like an eternity before you get back out there but it will happen in time. The silver lining for me was living without climbing for awhile, exploring new interests while still staying plugged in with the climbing community. I too practiced meditation and learned a lot about why I choose to climb. You have time to reflect and explore in new ways.

"Asdrubal" has good advice regarding caution about the pain meds. I don't recommend doing any training while on them. This will only delay your healing because you won't feel it until later.

Overall getting injured sucks but as RMT suggested, there is a silver lining. Go with it. Find a PT that climbs (real climbing around your grade and interests), any generalized advice from the docs who don't climb should be researched. Your body will tell you what is ok or not as long as you don't climb on the meds.

Finally, for me it was and still is challenging to lead after my injury. When you are back at it go slow so you experience success over and over. There is a lot to the "getting back on the horse" -- get back to it when you are ready. Set realistic expectations for yourself when you start climbing again. Keep up the PT after you have been "cleared". And I suggest thinking about the boulder problem where you were injured. It may be mentally beneficial to repeat it and mitigate as many risks as possible. Don't expect so much from yourself when you get back out there. Think mellow. The reason for this is that you will benefit far more from success over and over. Go slow for a couple months - do your PT - listen to your body honestly and you will be back very, very soon. I wish you all the best.
Joined Sep 5, 2010
35 points
May 13, 2013
Mentally? This is gonna sound harsher than I mean it, but: realize that things could be worse, and indeed lots of people have it lots worse, and you will have no mental problems at all.

I took a 40' groundfall, broke my back, and oh yeah, my foot. So I was in a wheelchair, walker, crutches, etc. All that time, even now, I kept thinking -- I *get* to walk. I *get* to talk. By all rights I shouldn't, from that height. I am the lucky one. I cannot and I will not complain. I will be patient. I get to walk and talk, and everything else is gravy, dude.

It wasn't clear that I would get to keep my foot, for a bit, and -- well, I'm from Boston. They have a Marathon. 'nuff said? No complaining here, because I get to walk.

There are plenty of veterans out there who lost limbs in service of your and my freedom.

So, the mental side? Zen out and realize how lucky you truly are.
Joined Apr 3, 2007
858 points
Jul 28, 2013
Thanks all for the advice. I've started walking again, and have been slowly building up to 3-4 mile hikes in the mountains! Still hurts but have been managing the swelling and will start climbing again next week. I just wanted to say that the advice that people have given me in this forum was amazing! Especially the knee scooter, and the advice for the body shop in Flagstaff. The PT's there are incredible and I'll be going back to climbing with not only a rehabbed ankle but a stronger core and back! I've always appreciated the climbing community, but through this I appreciate it even more. It's amazing that advice from people online I've never met could be so great and help me through this process. Thanks again! JacobD
From Flagstaff, AZ
Joined Jun 18, 2006
760 points
Jul 29, 2013
and anytime you are up, just hit me up and I'll make dinner. Surprisinghly I'll be ahead of you in rehab, so whenever you are up for getting out and I'll lead...

as JSH said, be happy about the little things. I've been told recently that if my neck wasn't so over developed, I would have been a quadrapalegic...being inconvienient for a few months compared to a lifetime of paralysis sounds fortunate. You kept your leg, even tough your self-evac was from hell....find the fortune where you can
chuck claude
From Flagstaff, Az
Joined Jul 24, 2006
140 points
Mar 1, 2016
sorry to hear about your leg. I went through something similar when I dislocated my ankle and tore ligaments in my knee and ankle. The pain was something I'll never forget which is why I tend to stick to low difficulty climbs or nature hikes. The mental side of it was the worst. After doing half marathons and leading a very active life, suddenly I was stuck on the couch, followed by boring physical therapy. I would say make sure you take it seriously, both the rest and daily exercises because it makes a world of difference. It really helped get me back to being close to normal, though I'm not sure if it will ever be the same (still shakiness in it). I would get a quality ankle brace just to help give more confidence once you healed and it helps with the healing process by not putting too much pressure on the injured leg. You'll make a full recovery in time. Jennifer Reader
Joined Mar 1, 2016
0 points

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