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calcaneal (heel) fracture from climbing fall

10:16:52 AM
I suffered several calcaneal fractures (essentially pushing my heel into leg bone) from climbing fall. Had surgery last wednesday with some plates and screws pushing everything back in place. Looking at the internet, I was shocked by the negativity of statements regarding a full recovery ("your foot will never be the same again."). I find that ridiculous and was wondering if there are some 'good' stories about recovering from calcaneal fracture in the climbing community. thanks! Eve

10:35:31 AM
Hi Eve
Don't be discouraged. I smashed my right heel in November, 1985. It was very painful and the recovery took a long time. But I went on a pre-planned and pre-booked climbing/hiking/canoeing trip to North America with my wife at the beginning of June 1986.
We climbed at Yosemite - including the East Buttress of Middle Cathedral, in the Rockies, did the Northeast Ridge of Bugaboo Spire, climbed at Squamish, climbed Outer Space at Leavenworth and did snow snow plods in the Enchantments.
The heel was very sore a lot of the time and continued to be so for a few years afterwards. I had a frumpy old Orthopaedic Surgeon tell me that I'd need to have my ankle fused and would be lucky to be walking in ten years.
I probably pushed it too hard early on, but the good news for you is that you have had your heel rebuilt - I didn't (not my choice) and I think that your recovery will be a lot quicker and better (I have had lots of trouble getting shoes to fit and that heel is prone to blistering badly).
On a trip to Yosemite in 1992 I met Scott Cosgrove, a 5.13 climber. He had just broken his heel in a car crash and was wondering how well he'd recover. I said he'd be fine and was pleased when I saw later that he was back cranking hard.
I've kept climbing, and did the Grand Wall at Squamish eight days ago.
My advice: find a good physio, work hard at your rehab and don't listen to the naysayers.
Good luck!
Mike Bee
10:51:18 AM
Hi Eve,
I'm sure you'll recover most or all of your ankle/foot movement/strength, but it won't be quick. I broke my ankle about 2.5 years ago in a climbing accident, and it still causes me a bit of grief. Mainly when hiking with a overnight pack off track, but it's definitely still noticable. That said, I still notice improvement every couple of months, so they can recover, but very slowly.

From my point of view, mine is probably back to 80% of normal, so it hardly ever impedes me while in the city, or riding my bike, or climbing, but off track walking in the Flinders (something I love), is severely hampered, and I expect it will be for the rest of my life.
11:05:37 AM
I reckon you need to unpack what "your foot will never be the same again" actually means.

I pretty seriously injured an ankle about 4 years ago indoor climbing (super bad, roll with popping which permanently damaged the inside of the joint and I now have a lump above the top part of joint). I know people who have broken their ankles and had a better result than me. I had similar stuff said to me about my prognosis.

So, I ankle is definitely not the same and never will be. It gets stiff in the mornings and sore in the joint sometimes. Having said that, I have done a bunch of marathons since and am climbing at least as good or better than when it happened (grades have slowed down for genetic reasons...). Like most of these injuries - further use may harm the joint, may actually help it or may make no difference, either way. Same deal for sitting on the couch and doing nothing.

So, if I were you, I WOULD expect that it MIGHT not feel the same again but HOPE it does feel the same. Joints/bones are pretty hard to repair completely though (got a close friend who is an orthopedic surgeon who has also had a knee reco...).

If it is not the same then that may not mean all the much - you just need to manage the effects of the injury and they may be totally minor. I know plenty of people who have had injuries that should not hold them back but they do because they won't do this (and some have gone back for more and more surgery). They keep waiting for the joint to feel "the same". I reckon it is like when you have not driven your car for a while and hear all the squeaks you never used to hear - as long as it does the same stuff, who cares..?

Hopefully that does not put me in naysayer camp .

11:13:12 AM
Thanks Doug - I love those stories of recovery and heading out to adventures again. I don't mind pain (I had a lot over the last 3 years with broken pelvis and dislodged discs) if I know that I'm not going to be limited to walking on pavement for the rest of my live! :-)

11:16:11 AM
not in naysayer camp at all! maybe I should have qualified my post - its not that I need to hear 'good news' stories but realistic stories from active people (and I get the sense from many posts on the internet that there is a severely defeatist mentality out there, probably comes from not leading an active life all together). In my other life, I'm a yoga teacher and I've seen amazing recoveries from other injuries through yoga (and some good physios as well :-) ). I guess what it comes down to is patience... ;-)

Eduardo Slabofvic
2:33:52 PM
I haven't broken heel/ankles, but have broken other bits and had three different bouts of surgery. No broken bit was "ever the same again" but took up climbing seriously after the first surgery (at the age of 17), the last surgeon said the whole point of the operation was to get me doing all the things that I was doing before the accident, which has happened, but no, none of the surgery made things as good as new. You'll learn to cope
5:51:55 PM
I've shattered 3 and, apart being woken with a flash of pain once every few weeks, am climbing as badly as ever. So no, you can't use it as an excuse. once you're able, start flexibility work. Stiff shoes/boots for walking help. Good luck.

6:52:00 PM
bummer! one excuse less...

6:57:37 PM
Hi Eve, unfortunately I do not think it will be the same as it sounds like a bad break. However, there are breaks and there are breaks. I get tired of hearing in the magazines of people who broke their back and are out sending 5.14 3 weeks later. If your break is bad, prepare for a long time coming back, but you WILL come back. It won't be the same but you adjust and get better at something else. Also the mental aspect of climbing again up above gear becomes hard but that gets better over time as well. You may change what you climb but you still climb. How do I know all this- been there done that. Spent a year learning to walk again after a smashed ankle & leg from a fall upset my life. Took another couple years to get over the debilitating fear of climbing above gear so took up crack climbing, now that is my fav. Forget what doctors tell you. Use it or lose it but don't over abuse it. You have many years to get better and stronger and it will happen.

8:22:12 PM
Best of luck with your recovery Eve. I reckon if you've come back from a busted Pelvis and messed up disks this will be nothing....

7:26:32 AM
thanks all! knowing reality is better than living in a cocooned illusion - and that gives me a lot of motivation to look ahead (with a smile)! :-)
9:17:11 AM
On 23/09/2012 Eduardo Slabofvic. wrote:
>I haven't broken heel/ankles, but have broken other bits and had three
>different bouts of surgery. No broken bit was "ever the same again" but
>took up climbing seriously after the first surgery (at the age of 17),

In contrast.

I broken bones 4 times and every time I have had a full 100% recovery with no indication of any difference after recovery. Sure though, I've been lucky. My breaks have been clean and uncomplicated. My point is that there is plenty hope of hope. In my experience Doctors prognoses are generally more negative than what is applicable to fit, active and determined individuals like climbers. ;-)

Bones are much more likely to heal without long lasting problems than ligaments and tendon tears.

Good luck with the recovery Eve.
11:28:05 PM
Unfortunately the fracture she has suffered is one that commonly has complications, with bone death and infection being a major problem due to limited blood supply to the area.

This is not your standard broken bone.

Good luck and let us know how you go, because I need to hear a positive story from this sort of injury.

12:33:07 PM
broke my talus in half a year and a halfish ago

I notice minor improvements every month or so in terms of limping less after walks. At this rate of improvement in walking I will be a mountaineer by the time I'm 50. Sucks though, cause i have no interest in mountaineering.

2:19:08 PM
On 25/09/2012 Cliff D wrote:
>......Snip... Don't get a full spling/cast that stops ROM... Snip...

I second Cliff D's sentiments; avoid full splings at all costs!

Not sure why but it reminds me of the misschu tuck shop ( motto; "You ling we bling!"
4:33:56 PM
Hi Eve,

while your injury sounds on entirely another level, I broke both calcaneuses (calcanei?) over 10 years ago in an abseiling fall and they healed completely after about 18 months.

Took about 3 months before I could stand for extended periods, beyond that it was mainly running or walking on rough trails that gave me trouble for a year or so.

As JMK said, it will undoubtedly be a long road but don't lose faith in the ability of the human body to come good just when you've given up on it.

5:36:43 PM
keep those posts coming as I find them a lot more useful than off-the-cuff doctors advice...

I think I'm pretty well resigned to the fact that it will be a long road but already designed my own yoga-recovery program :-)
6:11:46 PM
On 24/09/2012 rightarmbad wrote:
>Unfortunately the fracture she has suffered is one that commonly has complications,
>with bone death and infection being a major problem due to limited blood
>supply to the area.

In that case ensuring good blood supply by movement is essential!

Two of my broken bones were in my foot. Due to poor initial treatment by my doctor it had very little bloody supply, my foot was black and blue and swollen for 3 weeks. (Foot was put in plaster with Achilles contracted!)
10:37:37 PM
I broke my heel 3 years ago in a "rope soloing c--k up" where I decked from 6m up. After 2 weeks to get over the worst of it I was back climbing indoors one-footed. I also was designated belayer at a climbing competition... I'm not too sure why my climbing parter trusted a one-footed belayer who leaned on a cruch for support while belaying.

Personally, I'm glad it happened. It was a good life lesson in going just that liiiiiitle bit further with safety when I'm rope soloing. And -more importantly- climbing one-footed taught me the value of the perfect foot placement to achieve the required movement. Before that every climb I did was -in some way- distilled down to a variation of climbing a ladder (regardless of grade)... Afterwards I learned the value of footwork and body position. I think it was a crucial turning point in my climbing at the time.

Here's hoping you find the same silver lining to your injury. =)

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There are 52 messages in this topic.


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