Returning to training after breaking leg badly

  • Creator
  • #3399

    5 months ago I was sport climbing on a sea cliff in NorCal and was dropped by my belayer and fell 90ft, hit a big rock with my right foot, then tumbled 10ft in to the ocean. I broke my right elbow and wrist, but the majority of the damage was to my right ankle/lower leg(pilon fracture, similar to being in a nasty car wreck). I had extensive orthopedic surgery, and now have half a pound of metal in my lower leg, but the good news is that the doc managed to fix the joint space perfectly, so I should have no problems in the future from the bone standpoint. However, in addition to the usual soft tissue damage of surgery and longterm immobilization there was a small amount of cartilage damage(relativity), but they are optimistic that as a 20yr old, it should grow back to some extent. I have been full wieght bearing for a few weeks now, and have been getting on my bike for an easy 40-60min a day, and was wondering if anyone one have experience coming back to endurance mountain activity after similarly bad injury? I am an avid runner and climber love to do long days in the cascades and sierras, but am worried about the long term ramifications of my accident, and am wondering how to (slowly) get back into it.

  • Inactive
    Anonymous on #3401

    Sorry to hear of your accident. It does sound like you were luck and also had a good surgeon.
    I have had a similar history and went on to have a very long and reasonably successful sporting career in ski racing and alpinism. In 1978 I fell while descending after soloing a route in the Alaska range and completely dislocated my R knee severing all the ligaments but the ACL. I crawled for 2 days down a glacier to my base camp and after waiting 5 days in bad weather for a plane to get me made my way home to Colorado. Ortho surgery was nothing like it is today and I was in a full length cast for 6 months. The surgeon did a good job but warned me that I would never run and probably need a cane the rest of my life. I was 25 years old and was not about to let anyone declare that I was going to be a cripple. There was no real PT back then for this sort of thing but I worked my ass off for months just to get my knee to bend past 45 degrees. That next winter Jon Krakauer and I made the 3rd ascent of Ames falls near Ouray, CO. A few years latter I was ski racing in World Cup races and running 30 miles in the mountains. The point of this story is that YOU cannot let others impose their limits on you. Set your sight high. Be systematic and diligent. Train EVERY day like your life depended on it. If you love being active, your life DOES depend on it. Get a good PT to help you but don’t wait to do the exercises when you go to see the PT. Do them every day and do them several times a day. Rehab is key. There is no road map for this stuff. Just will power and self actualization. Be gradual and let pain be your guide. Expect this to take years to heal and you will always have some problems related to it. Major skeletal damage is very traumatic and the healing is not just 8 weeks for the bones to knit. But you will learn to deal with it.
    You can resume a full life with fewer limits than most otherwise “healthy” people.
    While I couldn’t walk without crutches I perfected my one arm pull up. Find some other goals to help you get through this time.

    Good luck,

    nickbb10 on #3856

    Hi Scott, sorry to not get back sooner, just wanted to say thanks for responding, means a lot. the recovering is going well, able to get out on the bike for a couple hours a day now and walk up hill with a fairly normal gait, so getting back to the mountains doesn’t feel quite as far away!

    thanks again,

    Colin Simon on #3858

    The “Tommy Caldwell” approach seems relevant.

    Anonymous on #3861

    Keep focused on the longer term and don’t let the day to day set back, of which there will be many, derail your motivation to heal and get back to your former self.


    nickbb10 on #6578

    Been awhile, wanted to give a quick update on my recovery. Its been almost a year since I started walking again, 18mo since the fall. I’ve been mt biking about 8-10hrs a week to get the aerobic capacity back(awesome sport, new to me, fun to learn another subtle style technical trickery!), rock climbing about 10-15 pitches a week up to 5.10+(on TR for now). Walking is fully back to normal, and have started to work on running/jumping, the biggest limiting factor now is the neuromuscular/max power and ROM, but its coming back bit by bit every week. Feels great to be able to push myself without feeling scared and seeing the confidence in my body come back! For PT, I having been seeing a MAT(muscle activation technique) practitioner about once a month, and I highly recommend looking into it! I notice marked improvement after every session and can get most of the pain/weakness I am struggling with to go away by doing the exercises 3x a day! Thanks so much for putting together this site, super inspiring, as well as TFTNA, I reread sections quite often to brush up and get stoked!
    Thanks Again,

    Anonymous on #6602


    I basically ripped my foot off in a 60-ft whipper from Autumn (5.9, Red River Gorge). You may say “you must have not placed from the crux to the chains?” and you would be, unfortunately, correct. I had a pretty negative prognosis including the possibility of amputation, but they were able to piece my heel back together and sew it all up.

    I had a lot of success starting with stationary biking, then moving up to longer walks, then weighted walks, then conservative Z1 jogs. Now I’m great shape after about two years. I took the down time from endurance to focus on max strength both for rock and weightlifting fitness. A few times though, I have negated rehab work and it has started to surface in various light injuries. I was told “if you injure yourself once, you can probably get over it. if you injure yourself twice, you’ll probably never fully recover.” Now I keep up with rehab, foam rolling, band work, etc, whenever I have the time. I’m confident you can be in the same boat. Just keep ramping it up, stay very aware of overdoing it, and stay positive about your recovery.

    Also if you’re ever at the Red, my blood is still streaked down the route about a foot left of the crux.

Viewing 6 replies - 1 through 6 (of 6 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.