Skating after breaking a leg

Yuzuruu

the silent assassin
Medalist
Joined
Nov 21, 2017
To all my fellow skaters/atheletes: have any of you broken a leg and got back into sport after? If so, got any tips for an adult skater how to cope with it and survive the struggle?

Let me explain what happened. In october I landed my axel akwardly and snapped my fibula just at the ankle. The fracture wasn't very bad, the bone broke at an angle but there was barely any displacement. I happened to encounter THE most wonderful orthopedic surgeons and they've put me back from pieces to a whole ;) I was fixed with metal plates and they are still in my leg. Then I've been put into a cast for 6 weeks.

After that I went into physiotherapy immediately which helped a little with the ankle's range of motion, I was quite depressed though because the progess was slow. To this day, nearly four months after it happened, I'm having slight trouble with movement and pain. I am planning on undergoing another physiotherapy session in february, the problem is however that each physiotherapist is telling me different things. The ortho-doctor basically said I can go back to skating (slowly though, no jumping) so I did. The physio's however do not agree with each other. One is saying I should rest the leg and do easy excersises, the other says I should go back to my full gym regimen and I'd heal faster. Both knew I am an athlete. I go to a physician regularly for check-ups and one of them told me that the pain I am describing is impossible at this stage, so I am basically imagining it :laugh:

My problem is in my country you have to wait months to get some physiotherapy sessions in the public health facilities. I am able to get some but it is not nearly enough. I simply cannot afford private sessions with physiotherapists, those are costly. Have any of you suffered from such a hard injury? How did you come back to sports? Any tips for a depressed lady?



PS. I know age makes a difference in such issues - I am not even 30 years old.
 

CarolPooh

Rinkside
Joined
Aug 13, 2019
Pace of recovery differs from person to person but I can share my story here.

I am in my mid-twenties and my injury is similar to yours. I broke my right fibula at the ankle and have metal plates inside now. It happened in March last year. I had physiotherapy session 2 weeks after the surgery. I went there every week for 3 months. In June, the x-ray showed the fracture is healed and I could walk without crutches and even do some small jogging. I waited until November to skate again.

At first, it was a bit frustrating as my right leg was so weak and I regressed a lot. And sometimes I felt a little bit pain when landing a jump on my right leg. Now, I don't feel any pain and I have surpassed my previous level. I don't think I have a trauma but I am always thinking of what was wrong before and how to avoid the injury again.

I didn't suffer from depression and I don't have qualification to give tips for depressed people. However, I feel grateful that I can still skate. I am also motivated to improve while thinking more about how to practise safely. Looking at how the top skaters come back from injuries is also very inspiring to me.

I hope my story could help you a bit.
 

cl2

Final Flight
Joined
Nov 9, 2014
I feel your pain and frustration. In my mid-30's, I broke my leg about 2 years ago. It was bad, comminuted fracture of both the tibia and fibula, needing surgery to put a rod into my tibia. After the initial 8 week recovery, I had to re-learn how to walk, and then at around the 6 month mark was when my xrays showed the fracture had healed up into a callous, at which point my orthopedic surgeon gave me to green light to resume skating very very gently.

The biggest challenge when resuming skating was that I had pretty much lost all my leg muscles due to eight weeks of disuse. Even though I was fortunate enough to have physiotherapy every week, there is no way around the fact that it takes a long time to regain muscles, especially when regaining them from zero.

Regarding pain, my PT and orthopaedist told me to continue with my activities as long as the pain is "within tolerance." As they say, pain is purely a neurological phenomenon which may or may not be produced by actual tissue damage. With the PT exercises, the rule of thumb was that it is OK if it hurts a bit, as long as it is within my pain tolerance. In fact the exercises always did hurt at least a little bit. My PT was great in that he adapted new exercises progressively as I gradually regained my muscle strength and function, so that I was always pushing the limits of my recovery.

I'm not a PT, but I personally think that the "rest it until it's brand new again" philosophy is outdated. If I had done that, I think I would be forever resting and waiting for a brand new leg to arrive. Muscle and bone strength are responses to stress and impact, so I am in the camp that you have to push it to make it grow and recover. OTOH, I won't jump straight back into a full gym regiment without knowing how to gradually ramp up the intensity. That seems too aggressive for rehab.

That's that for acute injury rehab. On-ice "rehab" was a whole separate battle in and of itself. I had broken my leg on a BO3 turn. So, imagine the enormous mental block I have for BO3's now! (To all y'all out there, please heed your coach when (s)he tells you to check your 3-turns!) Fortunately I have the world's awesomest coaches who knew quite a thing or two about returning to skating from injury, and they were instrumental in easing me back into skating and helping me address my mental blocks. Not that any of that was easy to get through, but having the support of my coaches made the challenge more approachable. Of course, pain was a constant plague here as well, but over time, I got better at distinguishing between when the pain was due to actual damage versus when the pain was due to my leg just being unfamiliar with the strains put on it. When it's OK to push through the pain, it will make you stronger, not weaker.

Two years on, I'm glad to report that I'm back at competing and my skating is now better than it's ever been.

I just spewed a missive about myself, but I hope it was at least a little useful. I wish you a speedy recovery!
 

hanyuufan5

❅*:・。.✨
Medalist
Joined
May 19, 2018
Four months is not a very long time in terms of a bone break, especially somewhere like an ankle that gets a lot of use. Everyone heals differently, and I see no reason why you shouldn't be able to get right back to where you were on the ice in a few more months. If you were in a cast for 6 weeks, you'll definitely need to build up your muscle strength.

As they say, pain is purely a neurological phenomenon which may or may not be produced by actual tissue damage.

This is true. I took a neuroscience class as an undergrad, and they taught us that the brain can rearrange itself to interpret normal sensations from a formerly injured body part as pain even if the injury is completely healed. I broke my tailbone as a child and still get excruciating pain if I sit in this one specific position too long. (Unfortunately for my ability to, you know, just not sit in that position, the pain is upon standing up, so I don't feel anything until I get up and feel like I'm being stabbed in the tailbone with a hot knife.)

Anyway, that was over 20 years ago. There's no way there's any remaining injury, and if I wanted to, I could probably read a few PT journals and cook up some kind of routine to make the pain stop, but it only happens once every few years, so I don't bother. (Note, I am NOT a PT, just a mad scientist who likes to use herself as a guinea pig despite being a physical scientist and not a life/health scientist. :laugh:)

For you, it hasn't been a year. Just give it time, and do whatever exercises you feel comfortable with. Maybe go for a middle ground between the physios' advice: don't take it too easy, but don't go back to your full routine either.

As for feeling discouraged, just remember how many competitions poor Yuzu has missed due to injuries! He always bounces back, and so can you! (knocking wood)

Good luck, and I'll be praying for you!
 

Snorlax

Rinkside
Joined
Jan 19, 2020
Country
United-Kingdom
Definitely seconding what the above people said about pain being not necessarily related to tissue damage. Pain can be an indicator that something is wrong, no doubt, but there is also a good chance that it holds you back and makes you avoid movements which you would need to heal and recover (=less pain).

Balancing out pain + activity can be difficult. I'm a previous physio (was only working on junior level though) and I feel with you for being stuck with two differing opinions. I think there are a lot of physios who are either too convinced of exercising as a solution to everything, or they're too careful and sheepish to push the patient a bit. I'm not sure I found this balance when I was working as a physio, but I also have issues to deal with myself, so this next part is more from a personal point of view:

I'd say, go with the golden middle and adapt your activity depending on pain levels. Exercising with mild pain can actually make the pain go away, it may just be your body getting used to the activity again, similar to a new skater who has burning shin bones because the muscles in that area can't handle the load for now.

Apart from that, your body actually needs formative input - if you don't use it, your body will get rid of it. Don't overdo it though; if you feel like the pain gets unhealthy or too much for you, you should definitely take a break. Also, monitor your pain not just while exercising, but also in the times between. If you experience lasting pain for a longer time, it might be a good idea to go easier on your body in the next session.

Back to the physio in me: I'd recommend reading up on the various stages of fracture healing as it may be beneficial to your judgement (if you haven't yet). Bone tissue actually can take several years to heal up properly, and there's a good chance that on an x-ray you can still see a fracture even after these years, albeit that doesn't imply decreased functionality.

4 months is still a short time for your body to get used to full activity again, so pain as a symptom isn't super surprising. It's about finding a sweet spot, aka when to respect the pain and when to give it some ignorance. After 4 months I don't think it's unsafe to be active again; especially because you've had an osteosynthesis implanted (the plate). Only conservative treatments (cast-only without plates/nails etc.) require complete bone retention and resting the affected bodypart (and any other bodypart that may conduct / transfer unwanted movement into the injured area).

Because you had a cast AND the plate, I wouldn't be surprised if the cast is another reason why you still have pain, because a cast and immobilization once again make your body get rid of the tissue that's no longer needed. You loose muscle and flexibility in tendons for example, this will have to come back and such improvements can only be done by activity.

Obviously I can't give any specific advice - that would be unprofessional. But keep in mind that even without the jumping, iceskating is a sport that is quite heavy on the ankles and not exactly a "normal, everyday average stress". If you don't do it already, definitely start off-ice training to improve ankle stability and balance to avoid unexpected stress on the joint. The last thing you want is flipping your ankle 4 months after a fracture, which means the muscles around your ankles will need a lot of strength to control the joint.

Edit: Oh and, speaking of Gym routine: Try to avoid anything with high impact on the ankle. You'll have enough bodyweight training on the ice and throughout your daily activity, but stuff like rope jumping or jogging should probably be taken on slooowwwwly. Try the bike or rowing machine first, or even the crosstrainer/eliptic as this doesn't have as much of a bouncy impact on your joints.

Apart from that, you have my best wishes and all fingers are crossed that your recovery goes well!
 

Yuzuruu

the silent assassin
Medalist
Joined
Nov 21, 2017
Thank You All for your kind responses and insight! I truly feel better after reading your messages :)

(...)

As for feeling discouraged, just remember how many competitions poor Yuzu has missed due to injuries! He always bounces back, and so can you! (knocking wood)

Good luck, and I'll be praying for you!

I find so much inspiration in Yuzuru in this hard time, I rewatch his performances, especially those that not went like he would've wanted and feel his pain like my own. He's truly my savior.

Definitely seconding what the above people said about pain being not necessarily related to tissue damage. Pain can be an indicator that something is wrong, no doubt, but there is also a good chance that it holds you back and makes you avoid movements which you would need to heal and recover (=less pain).

Balancing out pain + activity can be difficult. I'm a previous physio (was only working on junior level though) and I feel with you for being stuck with two differing opinions. I think there are a lot of physios who are either too convinced of exercising as a solution to everything, or they're too careful and sheepish to push the patient a bit. I'm not sure I found this balance when I was working as a physio, but I also have issues to deal with myself, so this next part is more from a personal point of view:

I'd say, go with the golden middle and adapt your activity depending on pain levels. Exercising with mild pain can actually make the pain go away, it may just be your body getting used to the activity again, similar to a new skater who has burning shin bones because the muscles in that area can't handle the load for now.

Apart from that, your body actually needs formative input - if you don't use it, your body will get rid of it. Don't overdo it though; if you feel like the pain gets unhealthy or too much for you, you should definitely take a break. Also, monitor your pain not just while exercising, but also in the times between. If you experience lasting pain for a longer time, it might be a good idea to go easier on your body in the next session.

Back to the physio in me: I'd recommend reading up on the various stages of fracture healing as it may be beneficial to your judgement (if you haven't yet). Bone tissue actually can take several years to heal up properly, and there's a good chance that on an x-ray you can still see a fracture even after these years, albeit that doesn't imply decreased functionality.

4 months is still a short time for your body to get used to full activity again, so pain as a symptom isn't super surprising. It's about finding a sweet spot, aka when to respect the pain and when to give it some ignorance. After 4 months I don't think it's unsafe to be active again; especially because you've had an osteosynthesis implanted (the plate). Only conservative treatments (cast-only without plates/nails etc.) require complete bone retention and resting the affected bodypart (and any other bodypart that may conduct / transfer unwanted movement into the injured area).

Because you had a cast AND the plate, I wouldn't be surprised if the cast is another reason why you still have pain, because a cast and immobilization once again make your body get rid of the tissue that's no longer needed. You loose muscle and flexibility in tendons for example, this will have to come back and such improvements can only be done by activity.

Obviously I can't give any specific advice - that would be unprofessional. But keep in mind that even without the jumping, iceskating is a sport that is quite heavy on the ankles and not exactly a "normal, everyday average stress". If you don't do it already, definitely start off-ice training to improve ankle stability and balance to avoid unexpected stress on the joint. The last thing you want is flipping your ankle 4 months after a fracture, which means the muscles around your ankles will need a lot of strength to control the joint.


Thank You Snorlax so much for your much welcomed insight! I am trying to do all of the things you explained i.e. finding the "sweet spot" in pain, not pushing the ankle too hard on ice. I always do off-ice, I even bought a special physio wobble cushion to excercise my foot muscles and tendons :) I massage the foot with a hard ball, I massage my leg with a massage roller. It does all help a ton fortunately. Even one of my inner foot tendons stopped burning lately :)

Edit: Oh and, speaking of Gym routine: Try to avoid anything with high impact on the ankle. You'll have enough bodyweight training on the ice and throughout your daily activity, but stuff like rope jumping or jogging should probably be taken on slooowwwwly. Try the bike or rowing machine first, or even the crosstrainer/eliptic as this doesn't have as much of a bouncy impact on your joints.

Apart from that, you have my best wishes and all fingers are crossed that your recovery goes well!
I cannot really jump or run yet so I don't really try it. I will say though that not being able to jump and run are the main reasons I get depressed this days :( I know it is going to come back eventually so I am not giving up!

I hope I can Kaetlyn Osmond this - from a broken ankle to an Olympic bronze ;) or in my case to an adult competition medal ;)

Thank You all once more for taking time to help me through this! Figure skating family is one of a kind :)
 

Ic3Rabbit

Le professionnel d'élite
Record Breaker
Joined
Jan 9, 2017
Country
Canada
I've more injuries than I can count in my former skating career to elite. Knee, ankles, hip, wrist, foot.

All those times just listen to the doctors get therapy when the time comes to rehab it.


My joints are the ones that bother me the most now as a pro from almost 30 years of competing and 30+ years in this sport, but it's my first love and always will be, so we push through. ;)

I hope everything goes well with you and you are able to achieve your goals. :)
 
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