Broken Rib

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  • #16409

    Broke a rib last week. Doctor wants me to do nothing but walk on flat ground for 6 weeks. I have a trip planned for mid March, the day the prescribed rest period ends.
    Anyone have experience with this or a similar injury? I’d like to respect the doctor but also maintain some fitness. Possible?

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    Anonymous on #16411

    Eeesh. Sorry to hear that.

    How active is your doctor? I find that most doctors’ standards of activity is whether or not you can take the dog for a walk. And healthy to them usually means “not sick”. Because of that, I never see sedentary doctors if the issue could affect my training.

    If I were you, I would find a doctor that is also an athlete and ask him/her. You’ll get a much more sympathetic response.

    hafjell on #16447

    Thanks, Scott. Good idea. My doctor is sedentary so I’ll ask some athletic trainers and a local ortho who are much more active.

    hafjell on #16499

    Ortho nurse telling me to abide the doctor’s recommendations. “If you don’t rest it right the first time, it will hurt much longer than you would expect.”
    (Nurse is a former alpine US Ski Team member.)

    Anonymous on #16526

    Broken bones that can’t be cast in place during healing may not heal. I broke a rib when young but it was not ever diagnosed or treated and it too may 10 years to stop hurting me. Same thing for collar bones. When you disrupt the healing process by disturbing the break you will prolong the healing at best and likely result in more permanent injury. Ribs are constantly flexing with each breath. Excessive movement with exercise will mean you are still in pain when you start your trip…or worse. I’d listen to the doc and take it very easy.


    Steve House on #16628

    Hi Hafjell.
    Sorry to hear this! I have an inordinate amount of experience with broken ribs, in two incidents incurring around 20-25 total fractures. I’d actually say that your doc and Scott Johnston are both right. There is not that much you can do except wait for the healing process. It’s a painful fracture for such a long time precisely because the ribs do move all the time, as S.J. said. That said, you can be guided by pain, meaning once you are pain free you can start moving again. Breathing hard will come back much sooner than something like a pull-up.
    Hope that helps and heal up quick.

    hafjell on #16740

    Steve, thanks for the perspective. At this point, I am fully committed to waiting until pain-free before I begin exercise. I am seeing week to week improvement, although not always day to day improvement.
    It’s also forced me to reconsider tree skiing and backcountry solo skiing. The trauma risk isn’t worth it and I would not want to have to self-rescue with a broken rib. I cannot imagine breaking 10 to 15 in a single accident. I’ve been listening to a lot of backcountry rescue podcasts recently and one them that keeps coming up is the primacy of partner selection. Another is one of the few variables we control is terrain selection.
    One last question for you and the rest of this committee: I’ll have 11 days in mid-March of both vacation, excellent day care coverage, and easy access to incredible ski touring and lift served backcountry. The temptation will be to max out this opportunity. As long as I’m pain free and staying in Z1 and Z2, can I go as long as I can handle? I’ll make sure to listen to my body, and dial it back if needed. In short, how quickly were you able to ski tour after your ribs healed?

    Steve House on #16797

    My timeline was different as my accident occurred on March 25th. I toproped a 5.10a on August 25th, the first time I’d climbed. I did that pitch twice and was done for the day (and a couple of days after…!)

    I was able to tour that following winter and built up to a fairly decent volume. I recall running a bit in October, I’d have to check logs for details, but as I recall that was the first real aerobic work I was able to do. 7 months, roughly.

    Regarding your vacation, I’d go for it and do what you can handle. you might need it mentally and that may be worth overdoing it physically.

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