Broken ankle

A little over 2 weeks ago, I went out for an evening walk with my father. A bit of the pavement was uneven, and I took a bad step, rolled my ankle, and snapped off the tip of my fibula.

I went to emergency the next day and was placed in a walking boot, although told not to bear weight. Follow-up at the fracture clinic the next week concluded that the type of break I have would heal better in a cast, so my lower leg is now encased in fibreglass. Can’t bear weight until the cast comes off, then I’m told I can transition back to the boot. All told, I’ll be off my feet for roughly 8 weeks minimum.

Does anyone have experience with this? I am really struggling with boredom and just the frustration of not being able to do very much. Also super disappointed at the presumably long timeline to get back to riding - does anyone know how long I can expect to be out of the saddle, and how long it will take to gain back the strength and flexibility I need to ride?

When you break a bone its going to be at least six weeks. I was trampled by a horse and had a fracture in the top of my foot. I live up 3 flights of stairs and it was my right foot so no driving. I was non weight bearing for 5 weeks in a boot, but too painful to disobey. When I had a friend drive me for checkups I went down stairs on my butt and then into a wheelchair at the hospital.

Yes it is boring. I couldn’t master crutches for any extended time plus they were useless on the stairs.

After the cast is off you will be weak and tired. Walking is very good to rehab. It was winter so I went and walked in the mall. The first time I realized I couldn’t step forward onto the down escalator, I had to use the elevator. I went back to ridung ASAP but was weak on that side through the summer. If you are younger recovery time will be faster.

I am so sorry.

I slipped on the ice at the end of January and broke my ankle and tore the tendons and ligaments to boot.

I was 8 weeks non weight bearing but TBH by 6 weeks I was not behaving as well as I should have been. I had transitioned to just 1 crutch and stuck my booted foot way off to the side for balance and could get around so much better but it was agony all the same.

I did help with chores while on crutches once the ice was gone but I probably was more in the way than anything :neutral_face:

I was cleared to walk in my boot for 2 weeks and I went back to helping with chores full-time and walked everywhere I could and started saddling and lunging my youngster in prep for my return to riding.

Once I was out of my boot and just in a brace I wore over my sock, inside my shoe I did as much as I could and while I was a bit sore at the beginning ( i tried to control myself) I was doing pretty good .

My biggest issue is that I am limping when I first start out after being off it, even now, until it loosens up.

At first , If I stepped on a rock, or uneven dirt / surface, the pain in my heel and bottom of foot shooting up my ankle was excruciating. Thankfully that has lessened as time goes on and I guess it is related to the tendon/ ligament damage.

I was riding by April. I use a mounting block now ( my left ankle) and trotting causes some discomfort in my foot but it is getting better.

I think if I was 30 I wouldn’t be having all the residual issues.I am not close to 30. I realize we all heal differently but that was my experience. Just to give an idea and a timeline of my healing.

Do what the doctor says and you will be fine :neutral_face:

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I shattered my heel - one plate, seven pins - i was told i’d be non weight bearing for 3 months, casted for 3 more, and then I could transition to a boot. At 3 months I was in Aiken riding.

Are you doing any sort of PT? I owe a lot of my success and soft tissue strength to a zero gravity treadmill and swimming. I’m not 100%, I probably won’t ever be, but I am comfortable and confident in the saddle.

BTDT, got a few tee-shirts.

This is going to sound weird, but a break can be quicker to heal than a bad sprain. If there’s not a lot of soft tissue damage, rehab is easier.

If you haven’t yet, fix yourself a nest in your favorite chair or couch. Keep the essentials close by. I can’t recommend a cup holder for your crutches enough. Get a gimballed on designed for a baby stroller or walker. I didn’t put drinks in it often, but did put everything else in it.

Things like cheesy needlepoint can help with boredom. The plastic canvas stuff doesn’t take too much skill. I can’t recommend puzzles - those are easier to do at a table with your foot under it, not on it. I found the same thing with my sewing machine.

Find yourself a good PT. By the way, the Dansko clog heel is a pretty good match for the height of most walking boots. Keeping your hips level-ish will make your back happier.


Get a “knee-scooter” for fun and enhanced mobility. “Zoom, zoom.”
Have a calm horse? Ride as soon as you stand/walk on the foot, but ya don’t wanna risk re-injuring the ankle; hurts worse and takes longer to stop hurting the second time. Don’t ask me how I know this :stuck_out_tongue:

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Also BTDT, so much I got a Hoodie.

Bone healing is 6-8wks for consolidation. If no complications, then it’s fixed. After that, your rehab is for the soft tissues. If you had minor damage, the 8wks immobilisation will have helped heal that too.

The hardest part of rehab is that your body parts are not meant to be immobilized and your body adjusts quickly by stiffening and dissolving unused muscles. You lose strength much faster than you gain it back. Make sure you have a good PT and do what they say for the at home exercise. Walking and regular life is not enough after immobilization. I see a lot of stair heel lifts in your future :wink:

In the mean time, you can stay active with the rest of your body. Floor exercise for core and thighs/butt, arms with weights while seated etc. You can get a little arm bike to get some cardio in if you crave that. Basically the more you move now, the less deconditioned you will be when you start rehab, so you can focus on just the leg and not overall fitness.

Backpacks are amazing when on crutches, and water bottles that don’t leak.

When seated or laying down, keep you leg raised. True ‘raised’ that counters inflammation is above heart level.

If you have to sleep with a walking boot, wrapping an old pillow case around it can help keep the bed clean and your other leg not scratched up. This works if your plaster is rough too. I also sandpapered a few spots on mine that were bugging me at night.

Hopefully you will have a quick and uncomplicated recovery!

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I couldnt do any floor exercises with my broken foot because I couldn’t get up and down off the floor. I couldn’t even step into the bath tub.

Ah. This is likely where being an Occupational Therapist myself helped. I was able to transfer myself, or was able to direct DH to help me safely. Sometimes I forget that what is easy or evident to me isn’t to everyone.

For the bath, I had a bath bench and did a slide transfer from toilet to edge of bath to bench. DH to help guide leg when we were learning. Cast bag over leg to knee to protect cast. It wasn’t the easiest process, but I spent over a year combined over a three year period in a cast. Lots of practice and problem solving time.

Floor work was done with set up done by DH (mat, weights, etc). Transferred from bed to floor mat with a solid chair next to bed if an extra hand needed. Crutches nearby if needed. DH usually there shaking his head that therapists make the worst patients. Believe me, I had one huge butt cheek from all the squats and full floor to stand lifts one legged. And one sad little peg leg and flat butt on the other side.

Well I live alone. So no help with anything. I used crutches into the kitchen and propped myself against the counter to make food. I could not get a cup of tea into the living room had to drink in kitchen.

My tub has a stupid shower door so you can’t sit on the edge because of the track and the entry space was too short because of the door to sit and swing a leg. And my place is too small for a knee rest roller thingy. However I came back fast enough after I was cleared for walking. My coach took my horse on full training board until I could cope with self board agsin.

I’m sorry that was your experience :frowning: I wish all injuries like this required an OT consult before leaving the hospital. 30 mins and you could have had some problem solving, ideas, and at least some acknowledgement of the difficulty.

I’m glad it didn’t set you back too far and you were up and going fairly quickly. I’ve certainly seen my share of clients that don’t bounce back at any great speed.

Also BTDT, last October I missed the bottom 3 steps going down to my basement. I spiral fractured my fibula just above the ankle. I also tore all of the tendons and ligaments. Be prepared to watch tv, read books, play computer games, etc. Ice is your friend for swelling and soreness.
After 2 weeks, I was one of the lucky ones that developed blood clots in my leg. Of course surgery to remove blood clots and I have been on blood thinners for almost a year.
I was finally able to ride, with clearance from my PT, LMT, and Ortho dr after 9 months. Take your time and don’t rush getting back in the saddle. Just as we would give our equine partners time to heal, we also need to remember to take time to heal. :slight_smile:

I was in too much pain to think about OT when I was sent home :). If I’d had lingering issues like I did with my shoulder after I broke my wrist, I could and would have gone back to the same great sports physiotherapist I used then. But after I was allowed to be weight bearing I just started gentle walking in the mall and the park, and felt like I was rebounding OK. Got on the horse, too.

For the first couple of weeks movement would cause pain, even the amount of incidental movement of stretching or moving my torso. I did have a removable boot cast so I could air the leg out at night after the acute pain stage was over. I think it atrophied less than in a plaster cast.

This was 4 months after my break. Was only allowed to take the boot off 2x a day to wiggle toes and gently move.

I do have to say that things would have been way way harder if I wasn’t an OT.

We have just started integrating PTs into the emergency room here in QC for just these reasons. My professional order is also pushing for OT. To help with home planning and to give people just a bit of support and instructions for how to make things less painful and more functional when at home.

Getting help weeks later when you start rehab is too late. Now we have to treat all the proximal joints, the deconditioning, the mental health etc etc. A lot of that can be mitigated with education before leaving the hospital.

I know I was a severe case too. I was non weight bearing for almost 6months, and had a crutch/cane for another 3 or 4. Then they discovered a bone bruise a year later and I had a 2nd surgery and another 3 months non weight bearing etc.

Still haven’t gotten back on a horse :frowning: I have a long screw between my two leg bones at my ankle level. Surgeon says heels down with weight from riding risks snapping it. I’ll risk it one day…

Oh oh oh. Way worse than me. I just had a hairline crack in the top of my foot. Yes, I can see if you’re non weight bearing for 6 months everything will deteriorate. I was allowed to walk in the boot after 5 weeks and it came off at 6 weeks. I did have friends bringing groceries and visiting me, and driving me to the hospital for weekly checkups.

Those foot fractures can be nasty though if not treated properly. I’m glad you healed up quickly and had some help along the way.

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I managed to get into the shower but no way could I have ever gotten up from the floor either :laughing:

Thanks for the advice everyone!

I was told I would be able to start physio 1-2 weeks after the cast comes off (I’ve got 5 weeks in the cast to go). None of the doctors have said anything about ligament/tendon damage, so hopefully that means it was minimal?

I think the swelling has gone down substantially. My cast feels looser and I have full range of motion in my toes, which I didn’t for quite a while after I broke it. I’m currently 21 days post-break.

I’m lucky that my husband is awesome and has taken over all the cooking, cleaning, and bringing me beverages. He also got me a shower bench and cast cover, so I’m able to shower which makes me feel more human. My house is stairless which is a big bonus.

I am still really struggling with the boredom and the feeling like I should be doing something other than sitting here with my feet up. I’ve been doing a lot of cross-stitch, and playing Wordle and reading (I’m going to run out of cross-stitch supplies pretty soon at this rate) but the days are starting to drag.

My husband in his 40s* shattered his ankle, resulting in 2 plates and 17 screws. On x-rays, the injury looked like the spiral helix of DNA before surgery, like the Eiffel Tower afterwards. When he was in recovery post surgery, I was told by the assisting surgeon that this was the type of injury that previously would possibly have resulted in amputation. He wanted me to tell you that there is hope.

He spent two months in a wheelchair, then two more on crutches not allowed to even rest his foot on the floor (had to stand like a flamingo whenever he was erect), had lots of physical therapy of course, but came back from the injury fine. He rides, plays golf, ballroom dances, can handle walking challenging terrain, etc. – says he very rarely even thinks about the ankle.

The main thing I noticed once he was back on a horse was that the surgeon had straightened out the injured leg, so my husband doesn’t toe out as much on that side anymore.

This is years ago, and I’m sure that an even better prognosis is now possible. Best wishes for a full recovery and a return to what you love!

*In the hospital, doctors and nurses kept verifying his age repeatedly; I finally asked what was up with that. They said it was because he looked, and had the bones and overall physical condition of someone ten years younger that his actual age, so they thought there was an error in his paperwork. His good physical condition probably did help him during recovery.

I’m so glad to hear things are going fairly smoothly!

My second cast (yeah I was special, got two in a row before a boot) was suuuper loose because I was an idiot and crutched around on a dinner out the night before the follow up appointment. As karma would have it, we got caught in a major end of March blizzard that dumped 3 feet of snow while we were inside the restaurant.

There was no way I could hide the result from the surgeon the next morning and I got a stern talking to :wink: Of course, because I had made my leg swell up a bit, the new one was pretty loose once swelling went down. It’s ok, things still heal ok, just be careful crutching around that you don’t have it flopping your leg around.

My husband still mutters “it’s MY turn next” under his breath after my two surgeries and a maternity leave in a 3 year period.

Keep on going, you’ll get there!