Friday, December 30, 2011

Broken ankle recovery

Alejeather asked for my recovery story. It's a story fraught with good medical care and decent recovery.

When I finally got to my hockey playing podiatrist 3 days after the accident (so nice to have a doctor that skates) I still didn't have any symptoms other than pain. I could put weight on the ankle to walk, but I couldn't walk up the stairs. That was the extent of my limitations.

Hockey Doc told me I had a clean break of the fibula (the little bone), straight across, with no offset. He put me in a plastic cast, the kind with velcro straps and told me to get some crutches. I was told not to drive. Thank goodness for the van pool.

In about two months, the doctor told me I could stop wearing the cast. Four months later he said I could skate. Unexpectedly an unrelated issue arose and I couldn't skate for six more months after that. So that was a total of a year off the ice.

Return was a lot harder than I expected. All I could do was forward stroke.
From the time of the accident, it took me 18 months to be free of the pain from the injury. I had to completely relearn my skating. I also had a boot related issue that slowed me down and had to change boots. Typical. Unconsciously, I developed the bad habit of looking down at the ice during 3 turns. It took a while for coach to fix it.

Everyone's story is different. I was going slow when it broke, so the damage was limited. If I'd been going fast, I expect I would have had much worse injuries. In a way, I was lucky, I had a text book recovery.

The only thing that I have for advice for people with a similar injury, is to always take your crutches with you even if you're in a walking cast. At one point I was in the cast and didn't need crutches, but I found that when I went to the movies or the store or a restaurant, the crutches kept people away from me. It just takes one person bumping into you when you're in a walking cast, to break the other ankle. Milk that sympathy for all it's worth.


  1. Thanks for sharing about this, Babbette.
    It sounds like I had a similar fracture. I broke the lateral malleolus, which as far as I understand is part of the tip of the fibula ("The bone they shoot horses for" the doc at the urgent care told me). It was a clean break and there was no offset. Luckily, it's my left ankle, so I haven't had any issue with not being able to drive. I was in a fiberglass cast for 2.5 months and then a removable splint for another 1+. I had an issue with very slow bone growth--so slow that for a bit it seemed to have stopped healing. Apparently, the bone's progress has finally advanced enough to be out of the splint and hopefully the rest of my recovery will be "normal".

    Did you do any physical therapy? If so, was it just your "Hockey Doc" giving you some exercises or did you go to a separate physical therapist and with what frequency?

    I still don't know how long it will be until I'm cleared to skate again. I'm guessing 2.5 month minimum. In the meantime, I'm trying to build up my strength and flexibility the best I can with what I'm currently allowed to do and getting myself accustomed to the fact that I won't start out where I left off and I probably won't even start off where I was when I started taking lessons, as even at that point, I had two fully functioning legs.

  2. I had some physical therapy. Mostly it involved doing exercises at home. I didn't do them much. Let that be a warning to you. I think if I had, the ankle wouldn't have hurt for 18 months. Really, they needed to give me a DVD with a chirpy demonstrator. I just can't get motivated to follow instructions on a piece of paper.

    I went all the way back to the beginning. It was Dance Coach who spent almost a year getting me back to the point I was at when I fell. I think it's only in the last couple of months that I've finally started to advance.