Broken radius- recovery time?

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  • Broken radius- recovery time?
  • Premier Icon Northwind
    Subscriber

    Probably getting ahead of myself but I’m starting to go injury-time crazy soooo… I broke my radius in a wee stupid tumble at innerleithen on the 24th november. Not a bad break at all- no/minimal displacement, didn’t need setting, just slapped a cast on it and called it good. I’ve got the cast off now and I’m down to a splint but I’m not allowed to weight bear or work it.

    Still, it seems to be going pretty well- all the fingers work (typing this like normal), the range of movement’s restricted but not terrible, as long as I stay away from “aaargh actually that is still broken” territory”. I saw my normal sports physio and I’ve got some low impact exercises but just to stave off wastage, not really recovery stuff. With the splint on it’s all pretty functional, with it off it’s very weak in some directions, to be expected.

    Got my next appointment in 2 weeks and I’m kind of expecting decent news as basically everything so far has gone smoothly and fast, but it’s not going to be healed obviously. But what I don’t have any idea of is when I’ll get more normalcy back- when I can reasonably hope to operate without the splint, work the hand harder… Get back on a bike for general riding, and get back on for proper mtbing.

    Also, is there anything anyone’s tried as far as sporst supports for when they get back to it? As I understand it there’s basically going to be 3 considerations- basic capability (ie, when can I do it at all even if it’s a bad idea), decent recovery (when does it stop being a bad idea) and full recovery (when can I stop thinking about it)

    I’m pretty patient when I’ve got some sort of road map, obviously I’ll let the docs lead on this as I’ve only got the one spare and I need it for wan…., I mean, writing sonnets with, and it’s basically as good a break as you can get so I’d be an idiot to make it worse. But I just feel a wee bit pissed off just now, you know?

    Cheers STW Mum!

    philjunior
    Member

    Well I broke my radius and ulna about 3 years ago, no displacement so straightforward recovery age 35. Got given a splint and told to use it/rest for 4 weeks, then gradually introduce loads and assuming no issues full activity after 8 weeks.
    Then got a letter saying the same except splint 3 to 4 weeks. I’m impatient so took the splint off for increasing periods until uncomfortable pretty much straight away, back on the road bike 3 weeks after, 100 mile ride 4 weeks after and back to climbing/mtb after about 8, seemed to work ok amd minimised loss of strength. No niggles now although it did take afew stretches and about a year or more to feel 100%.
    Of course it sounds like you’re getting a different approach taken, for what reason I’m not sure, but it sounds like you might be taking a bit longer. You’ll get there eventually though.

    montgomery
    Member

    Broke mine age 37, right arm (I’m right handed), close to the wrist so it needed pinning (and a subsequent operation when the cast came off, to remove the screws through the wrist itself).

    I was road cycling and hill running while still in the cast. Swapped brake levers round on both bikes to use front brake with left hand during recovery. I remember easy mountain biking within eight weeks of accident, building it up over the next month or so.

    I was very pro-active with physio, though, even while in the cast – constant (and I mean CONSTANT) movement of elbow and fingers, so I could concentrate purely on the wrist when the cast came off – then, again, constant flexing and movement during everyday activities, using a climbing grip thing to build strength, etc. Had some booze before each physio session to blunt pain, so she could beast me.

    Doctor wasn’t happy about me ignoring their advice but I feel I knew what was best for me. I think it depends on your motivation. Only negative was when I slipped running down Cross Fell wearing the brace pictured below – put my hand down and back without thinking and, while the bone was OK, the squishy bits flexed a bit further than they were ready to go. That was somewhat painful…

    Bloody forum ate my post.

    Ive broken mine three times (the same one) so have a bit of experience!

    1) December, riding DH with Switchbacks in Malaga. Mid shaft fracture and displacement at the elbow. Plated and out the cast in about 6 weeks. Lots of road biking whilst it recovered but it generally seemed ok. I think it was a year or so before I had another propper crash on it and it was fine. Broke it a few weeks later (June IIRC) sliding on some fireroad gravel!

    2) Mid shaft fracture again, this time it broke arround the end of the plate! Plated again, seriously cool x-ray of the bone looking like a bit of mechano with all the old screw holes! Cast off in 4 weeks (should probably have been 6 weeks but thats the way the appointments fell). I was on a mate’s stag do at brechfa by about week 7!

    That was a bit stupid though.

    3) Rainy commute home in November. Slipped on some diesel at a give way like whilst almost trackstanding! That was messy, the break was in the same place, bent the plate and ripped screws out of the bone. Had to wait for the surgeon to get back from Afghanistan to fix it! I needed a bone graft from my hip to fix it. By the time they did the bone was non vascular, impossible to say if this was the result of too much too soon or the delay though.

    Mine were all plated so slightly different to yours. But I would say:
    1) When the cast comes off, they say riding a bike is fine. I WOULD SERIOUSLY ADVISE AGAINST IT. Their idea of a gentle low risk ride is completely different to ours, scaling back from the golfie to GT blue doesn’t count.
    A) if you crash, it takes 12months for the bone to recover it’s original strength.
    B) re breaking it is a lot easier, a lot messier and a LOT more painfull.
    C) Even if you dont crash, some vibrations stimulate the bone to grow, too much kills it.

    2) it hurts like hell going over big bumps for at least 6-8months.

    3) I think a year is a sensible amount of time to leave it before doing anything with a significant risk of crashing or serious consequences.

    In short, get a road bike, spend the winter on the turbo trainer then the summer riding it. Having gone through the shitstorm 3x I wouldn’t be riding off-road at least until next CX season.

    If your hospital has them and it’s suitable ask for one of the heat moldable plastic casts/splints. It’s like a sheet of perforated plastic about 3mm thick. All you need then is a couple of tubular bandages and the splint on top. Meant that from about wk4 I could take the whole thing off, change bandages, do wrist flexibility exercises etc. I tended to take it off whenever I sat down.

    You say you can move it in the cast and it feels fine, you’re in for a shock when it comes off. It’ll still only have that range of movement, getting it all back takes weeks and is at times bloody painfull.

    pothead
    Member

    Broke mine a couple of years ago ( stupid crash, barely moving ), no displacement or surgery, cast for 6 weeks and was back to work 2 weeks later (welder in a heavy engineering company) using a wrist support from decathlon which was by far the best of a lot that I tried. Also used whilst riding for around 6 months after I started riding again but left it another month after going back to work before trying the bike ( going back to work was against doctors advice, recommended at least another month off due to the job, stat sick pay only so had no choice). Doctors said it would be up to 2 years before it was fully recovered

    Premier Icon Northwind
    Subscriber

    Thanks all, quite a range of injuries and outcomes there! I’ll just pick up a couple of specifics…

    @TINAS the cast is already off, sorry if that wasn’t clear. They wanted to leave it on for 6 weeks to basically get the bone well along but it was driving me nuts so they let me jump ahead a little to a splint. But that’s a wee bit deceptive, ordinarily I’d be in a case and that really reflects the state of the wrist better.

    I’m a little short on movement but the main limitation is with the hand bend downwards- that stresses the break instantly (it’s only a month old so basically, it’s like that moment when the superglue is starting to set so it seems solid but actually it’ll snap like a twig if you hit it). Luckily it’s also damn painful so there’s no temptation to overdo it but that’s the real limitation. It’s a lot less stable than it would be with a plate right now, even though it obviously avoided the surgical trauma.

    I think they’re playing it pretty soft just because there’s a chance of a fast, very good bone heal so a little time invested now, will probably mean more physio etc but a better midterm recovery and removes the risk of surgery required. Makes sense to me but we’ll see what they say at the 6 weeks.

    Probably shouldn’t say it out loud but, goal is the Mega, mid july. Consultant and my sports physio both think that’s realistic if all goes well but basically say, hurt it now and I might as well cancel whereas there’s plenty of time to recover muscle and coordination. And tomorrow I’m putting the bastard turbo trainer back up!

    geex
    Member

    Get well soon NW. (Wondered why you weren’t out with the other Trailfairies on Saturday).

    JonEdwards
    Member

    Smashed the head of my radius up about 10 years ago now. Nothing displaced, but it looked rather like a fence post after assault with a sledge hammer.

    I had a 5 week gap between breaking it on the Mega and the next holiday, so that was the target
    Basically lived as clean as possible – no alcohol etc, turboing every night to keep the fitness and also blood flowing properly. I also took a chance on Physioclinic.net in Ipswich – highly snakeoily but for £100ish, worth a punt.

    I was back commuting by bike after 2 weeks (I had cunningly allowed the cast to set in “gripping bars” position), did one gentle MTB ride on the 4th weekend.

    Rode to the hospital to have the cast cut off (central London), then rode home again with this weird floppy thing attached to the end of my arm. Jumped in the car and drove to Les Arcs, where I then rode the arse out of the place (in a 661 wrist brace) for the next 2 weeks. Hit the Black 8 road gap on the 3rd day… I only had one “moment” when about a week in, I hit a pothole I hadn’t seen in the long grass with my weight wrong. That hurt!

    Since then, next to no issues. Occasionally aches a bit in the cold. Mid July? It’ll be like new…

    Premier Icon Northwind
    Subscriber

    Cheers gary. Considering i only got into mtbing because of a busted hip I suppose it’s just karma 😉

    How do you find the 661 brace Jon? Past injuries show I’m pretty good with actual pain but really terrible with discomfort so I’m sort of looking ahead to aids like that.

    montgomery
    Member

    All the above responses are valid – but how old is Northwind? It is relevant.

    JonEdwards
    Member

    Looking at it, it was a “Wrist Wrap Pro”. I replaced the plastic stiffeners in it with the ally one out of the brace the doc gave me. Barely noticed it was there, when riding to be honest (remember this is a decade ago, so memory is a little hazy).

    If it doesn’t come off at the next checkup, see if your hospital can do one of those casts that’s formed by softening a sheet of plastic in hot water then wrapping arround the arm (not the fiberglass one, this stuff you could re melt at home in the sink if it was uncomfortable). I got one the third time and it was great as it allows showering etc with the cast off and can ride the turbo etc. Then just put the cast on to go out and about. Like others I could even commute with it on. Much preferred it to the 661 brace. The 661 is only a wrist brace though, it won’t do anything for the rest of the arm.

    Premier Icon singlespeedstu
    Subscriber

    Sorry to hear you broke yourself.
    mrs stu used a Mobious X8 brace when she had here wrist out of plaster and wrekons it worked really well.
    She managed a week in the Alps three weeks after the plaster came off.
    Struggled to do loads of day to day stuff but could still ride OK with the brace on.

    Premier Icon Northwind
    Subscriber

    montgomery

    Member

    All the above responses are valid – but how old is Northwind? It is relevant.

    He is 40.

    Cheers tu and Jon, helpful stuff that. TINAS, cast s already off but the flexible thing is intersting- I think I’m probably past needing it for now but maybe it’ll come back tobeing useful later once I start wanting more from the arm

    Premier Icon Northwind
    Subscriber

    Update- was back at the hospital today, it’s healing well but a little slowly. Might be age, might be the osteoperosis, might just be one of those things- they’re happy enough but strongly recommended a slow return to biking, another 6 weeks before I should consider it Not Stupid. Which is frustrating but right now I need it strapped up even just to sit on the turbo in riding position so to be fair it might have ended up that way anyway. Not allowed to lift weights properly or do strenuous pushing or pulling but most other things are now OK so I can start to push the physio much harder

    This is definitely a softly-softly approach but tbh even if they’d said “that’s dead strong” I couldn’t go riding on it this weekend so it’s probably not that much of a bummer. And long term prognosis is almost as good as new by the start of summer- actual medical approval to do mad shit, rather than just doing it without telling them. So I’ll resist temptation I reckon and play it how they want.

    Cheers for all the comments folks!

    montgomery
    Member

    What was that about osteoporosis?

    Premier Icon Northwind
    Subscriber

    Can’t believe I forgot to mention this! I have mild osteoperosis because of mistreated coeliac disease in the past. It wasn’t directly relevant to the break- my arms are pretty much unaffected usually- but apparently could be just hindering the regrowth a little. Nothing to worry about in this casde though.

    montgomery
    Member

    Ah, just curious because there was some research a while back (early noughties) suggesting people who do a lot of cycling are more prone to osteoporosis than the general population. Not sure what the current thinking is.

    Premier Icon Northwind
    Subscriber

    Yeah, I’ve not seen any recent research but it seems to be absolutely accepted in medical circles- for someone my age when they see my dexascan they generally assume anorexia or cycling. Basically cycling’s pretty static position and low impact and we sweat out shitloads of calcium.

    My long suffering consultant who nailed my hip back together and caught the osteoperosis wanted me to cycle for rehab then switch to running, when I showed him pictures of me at fort william he made this noise that even a first year med student would identify as part of his soul dying.

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