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Talus fusions from climbing...
6:18:39 PM
Was wondering if anyone out there is still successfuly climbing after having a subtalar fusion? I fractured and dislocated my talus over 18 months ago while climbing. Had surgery (three screws) and have only just started climbing again. However it looks like a subtalar fusion is on the cards. Because of the injury i walk more on the side of my foot ( a result of the subtalar joint being f---ed) and I have been told it's only a matter of time before this will compound and cause problems elsewhere (ankle, knee etc). Surgeon suggests to cut my losses and get a fusion reasonably quick. Has anyone had a similar experience, and is still climbing successfully after the fusion?

11:13:53 PM
Seems a bit drastic. Do you have avascular necrosis or are they worried about arthritis? Id get a second opinion from someone who specialises in sports injuries in any case.

6:51:17 AM
I broke my talus and crushed the sub talar joint in september last year. I didnt have surgery but was on crutches for basically six months.
I started climbing again about 3 months ago.
Sounds like you break was a lot worse than mine, however i would get a 2nd and even 3rd opinion as i was told i would not climb again and would potentially lose full movement in my foot in side to side movement.
I am climbing again and lost about 20-30% movement only.
Also search this forum and cragx as i posted to both about the injury and got some good advice.
9:26:56 AM
Thanks for the speedy replies. I don't have necrosis, but It is begining to become arthritic around the sub talar. However, the doc seems more worried about the effect the damaged joint will have on my ankle (It's okay, apart from 50% loss of dorsiflexion). He reckons because the subtalar is damaged so much and the geometry of my foot has changed, it'll only be a matter of time before this causes problems at the ankle as well. His advice was I should be trying to protect my ankle as much as possible, so it doesn't crap out later in life, and he reckons the best way to do that would be reseting and fusing the subtalar joint sooner than later.

I have already seen a sports podiatrist (a good one), this is the third specialist I have seen, and he is the only one in the country (NZ) who is an 'ankle specialist'. I have dug around and he seems to have a good rep. The surgery isn't definite, but I still need to keep an open mind. I am more motivated than b4 with my climbing, but am wanting to know if anyone succesfully climbs with a fused subtalar?

5:56:56 PM
One reason i was advised to avoid surgery was due to the loss of movement caused by any scaring.
I was told to wait 2 years and then if problems developed get surgery as i still have 4-5 peices (pin head size) of flaoting bone etc.
My ankle still gets sore in the cold but apart from that it is only a minor 'twang' every now and then. It is fine climbing although i am more aware of my body especially my foot when falling.

5:15:48 PM
Hi Trogster,

Hope my 5c worth helps. I'm a chiropractor (in Brisbane) and deal alot with peripheral joint problems (shoulders, knees, ankles, feet, wrists etc). One patient (cyclist and climber) had a similar injury followed by necrosis (bone death) of a portion of the of talus. She'd been told by numerous specialists that her ankle was f---ed. She had very limited movement by the time I saw her. The short story is go see an Osteopath or chiropractor but make sure you ask if they deal specifically with this problem. Contact the NZ Chiropractors association and see if they have a sports chiro register. Alternatively some folks trained in manual Chinese medicine are very good at this sort of thing. Because of the damage and subsequent significant scarring in the joint any treatment which aims to physically move the area (I don't mean just stretch it) and break up that crappy tissue might be quite effective. The medical profession and other allied groups rarely use such methods and are therefore unlikely to consider the option. Once you fuse you don't have that option so don't go there yet. Also have you asked what the effect of fusion is on the knee hip back in the future etc.

That patient of mine is riding and climbing again, activities which she had had to give up. Her movement is still incomplete and always will be but it has improved around 60/70%. Fusion was the only other option given to her. She had not taken the option. In her case this was very fortunate.

If I can help further just ask.
10:23:58 PM

I broke my Talus 5 months ago, 2 screws...and still on crutches. Shitsville. Its discouraging to see how
long some of you others have taken to get back on the sharp end with the same injury. Though ill be
booking in to see a Osteo or Chinese medicine man asap, so cheers Dougal.


9:33:38 AM
Cool. How old are you? Just talking with a Podiatrist chum. If we're talking 60 yr old chronically painful, heavily arthritic with all bases covered (re treatment options) then yes a fusion is wise. To quote "...because with only another 20 years life expectancy you can afford to have the knee and hip pack up as a result of the fusion."

All the best.

4:20:49 PM
New to forums so I might stuff this up.
I am a physio in Melbourne and have rehabbed four or five sub talar fusions, none of whom were climbers. I'd be pretty careful about having the fusion as there is no going back (Oh Der). Climbing performance wise it will detract from your ability to conform your foot to the rock especially in cracks. Load that would normally be absorbed by muscles and tendons will now be placed on joints further up the leg.
As to whether it is better to have the fusion early and potentially avoid damage to your ankle I'd like to think you'd get some warning signs from the ankle before you did anything drastic to it.
Having said that opinions from those who have actually been able to assess your leg along with any scans etc should probably hold a little more weight than random forum posters such as myself.
6:52:14 PM
This is all good info!! I have tracked down a sports chiro who is keen to have a look, so I'll c what it brings (cheers dougal).

Schmicko; Hang in there, be positive, but don't push too hard on the ankle - these injuries take a long time to heal, take up another sport in the meantime (I ended up being a real bad geek, spent months playing xbox). On the positive side, you'll come back to climbing with more motivation and will probably climb harder than b4 (this is happening to me).

8:03:34 PM
On 24/10/2006 shmicko wrote:
>I broke my Talus 5 months ago, 2 screws...and still on crutches. Shitsville.
>Its discouraging to see how
>long some of you others have taken to get back on the sharp end with the
>same injury. Though ill be
>booking in to see a Osteo or Chinese medicine man asap, so cheers Dougal.

Get a hangboard
Saved me from insanity :)
4:32:17 PM
Hi all,

I dredged this thread up from the bowels of the chockstone archives when I googled 'ankle fusion and rock climbing'.

I have pretty severe degenerative osteoarthritis in both ankles, which has been limiting what I can do for a long time. I can climb ok with my ankles, but long approaches, especially with a load, have always been a struggle and are pretty much out of the question these days. I've had orthopaedic surgeons offer me ankle fusions multiple times over the past 15 years or so but I've always resisted doing something so irreversible. Its now getting to the point where things are bad enough that I'm seriously considering the fusion option.

I'm just wondering if anyone has had any more recent experience with climbing (and walking on rough terrain for that matter) after an ankle fusion. I'd love to hear what your experience has been.
Mr Poopypants
9:17:50 AM
Hey S

I've had lots and lots of ortho surgery over the past 38yrs. Looking at some more now. (motorbikes) Still climbing, but need a good sense of humour about myself. Ankles are bastards, they are hard to fix.
I've had the best surgeons in the country tell me to get mine fused but I've heard too many bad first hand accounts.
I shopped around and found a great surgeon in Nth Sydney who "cleaned" the joint up. He opened it up, trimmed the bits that were touching and shaped the edges all around the joint, just a slither of cartilege left in the joint. He thought I might get 12 months use out of it - that was 16 years ago. Thinking of having it done again.
Explore your options. I find sports injuries specialists know the best surgeons, the ones willing to try something a bit different. I figure my ankle is still better than a fusion. I can climb (my fat arse is a bigger problem) and tele ski. Walking is an issue, but I manage. Shop around.

By the way, just had a series of platelette injections, seems to have helped settle my ankle and knee down a bit.

Good luck.


2:49:30 PM
Unfortunately I think I'm almost out of other options. I haven't had any cartilage at all left in my ankles for at least ten years. Just bone on bone. There isn't much movement in them, which is why I'm starting to think that maybe getting them fused would be a good option. I have bugger all range of motion anyway, so getting rid of the joints probably wouldn't change the way I walk much, but it might actually improve the distance I can walk.

What I'm really keen to hear from any climbers that have had a fusion is how it affects their ability to climb cracks. Even though I have hardly any range of movement in the 'up and down' direction, I can still move reasonably well from side to side, and I can generally twist my foot into cracks without any problem. To loose this ability would really suck.

8:33:49 AM
Although I can't comment on flexibility post fusion and the effect on crack climbing, as the original poster I thought I would update on my recovery. I ended up getting my ankle treated after my last post, by a well trained chiropractor in NZ for about 8 months continuously (read multiple times per week and very $$$). Although each time I left his treatment room without noticing any difference in flexibility or pain (and swore I was getting ripped off), over the 8 months he worked wonders. I went from having regular, non -weight bearing pain etc to being able to train and climb harder than before, and even compete in adventure racing. I never regained full mobility of the ankle, but it is has been pain free since. I can run long distances, carry heavy loads and have have had to adapt my climbing style as I struggle time to time on slabs (lack of dorsiflexion), but so far so good. Yes, the lack of mobility affects other joints on this side (knee, hip etc), but you need to keep stretching to control this. A few years ago I decided to see if there was any possibility of getting further movement back into the joint. I was referred to a supposed 'ankle specialist' here in Melbourne, but it was possible that further surgery would upset the joint and make things worse - it wasn't worth the risk in my case. It was quite a scary consult, as even after the advice I had been given, when I left his room I was hurried into a second room and had the surgery papers shoved under my nose by his assistant who demanded I signed the papers on the spot 'just in case' I chose to go ahead... I guess business was tough for him that year and he was desperate for money ?

I am sorry there is not much to help you here Scott, but for anyone who has had similar injuries I would suggest finding a good chiro who knows what they are doing, before committing to a fusion... I am lucky I persisted and went down this avenue, but if you read online you hear loads of horror stories of people being 'sold' fusions, only for them to be worse off (more pain etc than prior to) in the long run.

salty crag
4:58:15 PM
Thanks trogster for adding to your original thread and updating. Ankle injuries seem to be part of climbing (bouldering) and there have been a few bad ones recently. I rolled mine bouldering at Andersons 6 weeks ago, broke a piece off the base of the fib, torn cartilage and ruptured ligaments. The surgeon is pretty confident he can clean it up and allow me a few more years before the fusion.

Reading some of the replies above has highlighted the importance of doing the hard yards re exercise and strengthening of the joint. Be keen to know what things worked best for you, I'm rural remote and access to specialists is limited at best so I'm searching online for ways to strengthen and support.

Back to trad for me, bouldering is way too dangerous!

There are 16 messages in this topic.


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