View Full Version : Coming back from a broken ankle...

Feb. 21, 2010, 08:05 PM
I recently broke my ankle as a result of a fall and had to have surgery to repair it (plate and screws :O). I was wondering if anyone has had this injury before and how it affected your riding. I have no idea what to expect and right now, only being able to move my ankle a few degrees is very disheartening (although its only been about 2 weeks since the surgery). Any input would be much appreciated :)

Feb. 21, 2010, 08:43 PM
Long ago I broke my ankle and had two screws put in it. I can't remember the time frame, but I went from a full leg cast to an air cast. At that point I started PT which involved walking in a pool and gentle exercises. I was back in the saddle very quickly.

I hope your recovery is as easy.

Cheval Gris
Feb. 21, 2010, 08:45 PM
I am still recovering from a broken talus. Currently I am about 13 weeks out (have sat on a horse once), have been in therapy and have pretty good range of motion with extension and supination and pronation, however my flexion is still minimal and since it was broken through the joint, depending how it heals, I may have to have the bone shaved down arthroscopically. It just depends on how it heals. So, right now my flexion is horrible=I can't get down in stirrups, but this early in the game it may just be weakness. I have only been walking on it for 5 weeks. Good luck! It really depends on what part of your ankle you fractured as to what kind of limited range of motion you will have. Talus fractures are very complicated, vs a maleolus/tibia/fibular fracture that generally is pretty quick/straight forward healing. Any kind of fracture within the joint is going to problematic in some form, whether immediately after healing or down the road with arthritis

Feb. 21, 2010, 08:51 PM
I have an avulsion fracture in my ankle. No surgery, but it hurt for a long time. I wore an air boot for about 6 weeks. My injury was in September.

It still hurts. I started riding dressage again in December. Towards the end of January I went back into my jumping saddle. I switched to Sprenger bendy stirrups, which help a lot.

My fracture is still technically not healed though and I have not been to physical therapy yet.

I find that riding is okay as long as I don't really push my heel down. But I went on a 20 minute walk the other day and my ankle swelled and was very sore, so I think I still have a long ways to go before being back to normal.

Feb. 21, 2010, 09:03 PM
I fractured the calcanus and talus (sp?) in a "V" shape. It did not heal correctly. I was told that there was only a 50% chance for surgery to help and I'd still be dealing with arthritis. I wish you better luck than me. I have zero sideways movement and limited up/down. It always hurts, some days much more than others. My ankles are two different sizes now.

This injury has changed my riding life. I sincerely hope your outcome is better.

Feb. 21, 2010, 09:27 PM
Thanks for the feedback! Im not sure technically what part of my ankle it was, I could attempt to describe it but I dont want to end up sounding like a fool! I know on the x-ray it looked like it was on the very tip of the fibula. I'm probably completely wrong on the name, sorry. The plan is to start walking in about 5 weeks. I have another doctors appointment this coming up wednesday and i'm definately going to talk about when I might be able to ride again. I'm already getting antsy!

Feb. 21, 2010, 09:57 PM
I was launched off a horse and I broke my Fibula, dislocated my ankle, and had surgery to put in 9 screws and a plate in Feb '07. Then I had a second surgery to remove the screw holding in my ankle together in May '07. I was in a hard cast for about 6 weeks, then in a walking cast for another 4 or so weeks. I also had PT for 10 weeks.

I wasn't supposed to sit on a horse for at least 10 months. This was on my doctor's orders because he said the bone wouldn't be completely healed until (minimum) 10 months... My injury was really severe. I didn't own a horse then so I was a good girl and didn't sit on a horse until Jan '08. When I did finally ride it went A LOT better then I thought. :cool: I needed to start with shorter stirrups at first but after working on stretching my muscles I was at my normal dressage stirrup length in a few weeks. I also went skiing in Dec '07 and had no problems.

My biggest problem was the 10 pounds I gained from sitting on my butt for 10 weeks. I'm not supposed to run anymore since I'm prone to arthritis. Actually my doctored guaranteed me I'll have it :(

When I was feeling pretty down about my progress I met a woman who had almost the same injury... though 15 years earlier and in both legs & ankles! :eek: She said she was back to normal riding within 2 years. I think that was pretty fast considering she broke both her legs. There are a lot of highs and lows but keep working hard and don't get discouraged. PM me anytime you want to talk or know more details of my injury/recovery.

Cheval Gris
Feb. 21, 2010, 09:58 PM
Let me tell you...After 11 weeks I finally was able to get in the tack and just hack (remember I have got no flexion), got one day in the saddle and the next I came out with britches on and my horse was 3 legged-after doing nothing for 6 weeks. Ugghhh..it is always something.

But seriously, after 6 weeks when he told me I could start walking in a boot and ditch the crutches, I was so happy just to be walking again..if you are in crutches, you will LOVE walking again!! Good luck!

Feb. 21, 2010, 10:02 PM
i fractured my ankle last year on cross country day at rolex just walking the course (fell of the side of the paved road)! i also tore pretty much every tendon and ligament at the point of attachment and doctor said surgery might help and might not so i didnt spend the money. spent most of the summer swimming and doing tiny toe raises on the pool steps for rehab and long walks with dogs once i was off the crutches. it would swell and go down and swell and go down but i really worked hard to get the range of motion back. tons of stretching helps too.

it took until august to feel "right" enough to ride with stirrups. i started riding again in june without stirrups because i couldnt stand it any longer. then, once i added stirrups at first i rode with that stirrup about two holes longer and found that my swivel stirrups allowed too much motion and made it hurt worse. also had a good bit of numbness/tingling from ankle to outside toes but it went away after a month or so. i would lose that stirrup constantly though for about two months!

power through it and do every exercise your doctor says you can do twice as much once your bone heals! sorry about the screws- that sounds like no fun- but at least hopefully your tendons/ligaments are intact- they take much longer to heal than bones! mine still feels weak/loose on that side and hurts a little after a long ride like a hunter pace- but the range of motion is back to normal!

good luck!

Feb. 22, 2010, 01:06 AM
Nine years ago, I slipped on the ice and broke my ankle (forget which bone, either tibia or fibia -- it's the one on the outside). I had a metal plate and seven screws put it, and they're still in there. After surgery, I was put in a "ski boot" instead of a cast.
At the time, I was extremely active, and I even went to the gym with my crutches! I hobbled around on those crutches and did what I could. As soon as the crutches were gone, I was on the elliptical, doing spin classes, and riding without stirrups. I had no physical therapy, but all of the activity I did actually helped me heal faster. On my last visit with my surgeon, he said, "Well, with most people I would need to see them one or two more times -- but you look so good, you're done."
I actually took up running after the accident and had no problems with my ankle. My range of motion is slightly decreased, and I do have the tiniest bit of stiffness in the akle. Overall, it really wasn't too bad and it certainly does not limit me in any way. Every once in a great while, it might be a tiny bit sore, but it's nothing bad. The only way it affects my riding is it's a little harder to really stretch into that heel. No biggie!

Feb. 22, 2010, 02:14 AM
I think it really depends on what was broken and where, and how much soft tissue damage you did along with it.

I *shattered* my tibia and fibula in early October and had surgery ten days later. Two plates and 14 screws. :uhoh: Recovery has been long and slow. They finally let me out of the AirCast at the end of January.

I've had a *lot* of physical therapy and have regained almost all range of motion aside from being able to flex and drop into my heels. I had a ton of soft tissue damage, and walking on ground the least bit uneven or trying to put my foot into a stirrup is still ungodly painful. Lots of swelling still, and none of my shoes fit.

Feb. 22, 2010, 06:37 AM
I recently broke my ankle as a result of a fall and had to have surgery to repair it (plate and screws :O). I was wondering if anyone has had this injury before and how it affected your riding. I have no idea what to expect and right now, only being able to move my ankle a few degrees is very disheartening (although its only been about 2 weeks since the surgery). Any input would be much appreciated :)

Everyone is different but I had a similar break (7 screws and a plate) about 10 years ago. I was in a brace and back in the saddle 8 weeks after the accident. I did a preliminary horse trial 12 weeks to the day after the accident and did a CCI* 6 months post break. I also was able to start running at 10 weeks and did a marathon about 18 months after the accident.

I didn't have any PT or anything but I was also only 21 at the time. Honestly, the scariest thing was getting my tall boots off at the horse trial. To this day, I have had no real issues although sometimes the cold weather makes me a little stiff.

Feb. 22, 2010, 10:21 AM
May 1st, 1999- bimalleolar fx, simple fib fx, and something else that I can't remember. Surgery with hardware 3 days later (broke it in Florida and wanted to have surgery at home). Was told I would not run again and would likely not jump horses again (I was 30).

8 weeks non-weight bearing, then was handed an air-splint and sent to therapy. Kicked out of therapy 8? weeks later as "the best it will get". Not satisfied (couldn't pull on tall boots), I continued aggressive therapy at home. Got the boots on. Started running for police academy the following spring, passed agility course, ran for fire academy 2 years later.

I wore the air splint for a long time. If I was going to spend a lot of time on my feet, I wore it as it helped with side to side stabilization as the ankle tired.

I certainly cannot crank that ankle down as far as I used to, but I currently compete at training Level eventing. I probably wouldn't win an eq round, but can get enough flexion and shock absorption to be safe.

Moral of the story- don't always believe what you are told. Most docs/therapists don't understand a horseman's mentality. If I had, I wouldn't be doing the things I do now!

Feb. 22, 2010, 10:47 AM
It will take quite a while to get the strength and mobility back in your ankle to ride at the level before the injury. I would recommend getting a pair of stirrup irons with offset eyes. It actually stresses your ankle quite a bit to hold the iron in position, so having the offset eye will help with that when you're getting started back. Good luck!

Feb. 22, 2010, 11:22 AM
I snapped both bones in half just above my ankle doing an emergency dismount. (Now I STAY ON THE HORSE.) Plates with screws holding both bones together. Walking cast for 4 months. Lost all muscle, etc.

The minute you can start putting pressure on the leg, start doing it. The more stress the stronger it will be. (I was living with an ER physician when I broke my leg, and he gave me great advice -- actually saved my leg by being there.)

He was not a horse person, though, and much to his dismay, I got on my horse as soon as possible after the cast was off, and fell off that first ride:) A bird flushed under my horse, and he spun out from under me. My leg was not strong enough to hold me on. I landed on my hands and knees, got my horse, and got back on. I've been riding ever since.

I now play soccer again -- have been playing for a few years. (I'm 41, and this happened when I was 32.) My leg is as strong as ever. I have no problems riding, running, slide tackling guys on the soccer field (I'm a 125 lb woman), etc.

You will be back to your old self before you know it.

Feb. 22, 2010, 01:50 PM
I've had a similar injury on my ankle twice, but my injury included breaking things and tearing the ligaments pretty badly.

The first time I was riding again about 3 months after the surgery, but wasn't back to 'really' riding until another month or two after that.

Second time around I started riding about 3 1/2 months after- though I did do some trail riding in a western saddle before that and just let me foot out of the stirrup.

In general, I would expect to be back in the saddle a few weeks to a month after you're out of your walking cast. But, again, I had ligament issues as well, so it might be different.

I still have a lot of pain in my ankle when I ride, I think I'm going to start playing around with the joint stirrups. It's been a year and a half since my last surgery and about a year since my last major ankle injury. I've been religious about my physical therapy, but my crappy ankle has significantly less flexibility than the other ankle.

Feb. 22, 2010, 02:20 PM
I've broken both ankles and just have issues getting my heels down to where they used to go.

Feb. 22, 2010, 04:01 PM
wow, ive loved reading all these stories. i was only in a brace for a week after my surgery, and now i've been in a boot for almost a week. i've been making sure to flex my ankle up/down and it seems to actually be getting slightly better flexion already. when the brace first came off it was like i couldnt even remember how to flex my ankle, it was the strangest feeling. i'm already so ready to be at least walking, i took for granted how much of a necessity it was :eek:

Cheval Gris
Feb. 22, 2010, 05:27 PM
Hey another thing that will help you is to sit in the bath tub in hot water (whatever you normally would bathe in) and do your flexion/extension exercises. It really helped me get some motion, though only while I was in the tub. After I got out it would stiffen back up but the hot water really helped me get my therapy going. I am still doing it and the degrees are great in the tub than out!

Feb. 23, 2010, 12:43 AM
Reading these are great! I actually just had surgery six days ago to remove the plate and seven screws that were in my right fibula. I broke my fib and massively dislocated my ankle June '08 - was non-weightbearing for two months, riding in three, and jumping again in about four. It was a MISERABLE summer. It took about a year for the range of motion in the ankle to stop gradually improving, and I'm still not as comfortable in big heels as I once was (though I haven't been pushing that). I'm as comfortable as I ever was in a dressage saddle, but I do have to work a little harder to use it correctly in a jump saddle (not least because I favored it unconsciously - one time early after my return I sort of toppled off after a drop, as I had ALL my weight on the left and the horse zigged right). Dr did say that he was very pleased with my progress considering the damage I had done to it - I think there's something to our collective equestrian determination as it sounds like other people have had similar results. I think maybe it helps to have a very good reason to push yourself (and that getting up in galloping position really stretches that ankle out!).

Feb. 23, 2010, 01:58 PM
I came off a horse and compound fractured my right ankle in multiple places in 2004, requiring a lengthy emergency surgery that involved plates and screws. I was non-weight bearing and in a cast for about three months. The key to my recovery from a riding perspective was having a fantastic physical therapist who understood my goals and how my ankle needed to function to be able to achieve them. I showed my therapist riding photos and explained in great detail as to how my ankle must function to be able to ride. Bearing that in mind, he took my therapy in a slightly different direction. He said that he will retain most people in therapy until they are walking and doing their normal activities as before. Since my "normal" was different, he kept me longer to help get my ankle functional for riding again. I was in therapy 3x week and worked it diligently. There were times when I was afraid I'd never get my range of motion back, or that it would always swell and hurt, but now, several years later, I'd say it's back to 85%+....pretty amazing considering what my xrays looked like. I ride a lot and compete, I play tennis, I water and snow ski, etc. with no trouble.

Something that also helped tremendously was having my hardware removed and scar tissue "cleaned up" in a minor surgery about a year and a half after the injury. It is no fun to have another surgery but it made a huge difference and was very much worth it.

Good luck!

Feb. 23, 2010, 02:27 PM
Something that also helped tremendously was having my hardware removed and scar tissue "cleaned up" in a minor surgery about a year and a half after the injury. It is no fun to have another surgery but it made a huge difference and was very much worth it.

Amen! I had trimalleolar fractures (both sides and back of ankle), requiring a plate and 14 screws. A year after my first surgery, i had the hardware removed. It made a HUGE difference.

I was on crutches, non-weight bearing, for 11 weeks. It was miserable. Due to the nature of one of my breaks (spiral fracture of the fibula), I was in a hard cast for 5 weeks. I wasn't able to move my ankle at all. When I was finally freed from hard casts, I wanted to cry cause my leg looked like it had been consumed by an alien. At first, I had to lengthen my stirrup to compensate for the lack of flexibility. I would also spend some time riding without stirrups in order to get general leg strength back.

It's been 7 months since my hardware removal surgery. I hardly notice a difference in my ankles while riding. Now if the swelling would go away.... :D

Sending happy thoughts your way!

Feb. 23, 2010, 02:56 PM
I broke my right fibula back at the end of August. September 1st I had surgery and went right into an air cast. The break is completely healed but unfortunately not only did I break it but tore all the ligaments away from the ankle. The orthopedic doctor said the ligaments can take up to a year to heal. I go back next week to hear what he has to say. I'll probably be back riding before he would like me to. I have a couple nice, quiet and sane horses for me waiting to help get me back riding again. But make sure you don't push yourself beyond what your leg is ready to deal with. You could very easily injure it again.

The only thing I didn't like about the orthopedic doctor was when he made the comment "another activity I need to tell my patients not to do". When I told him that was an unfair statement all I got was a disgusted look.

Feb. 23, 2010, 07:32 PM
I broke my talus bone and tibia after getting launched by a horse, of course! No plates or screws involved though, so I was lucky. They had me in a bent leg cast (so I could not possibly put any weight on that ankle) and they threatened that I would need screws if I DID step on it (that was enough to make me behave). It healed just fine. I probably have a little less flexibility in that ankle (and it is a great excuse I use when I get yelled at for not having my heel DOWN on that side). ;) Since that leg was in a cast for a while, it did mean that I could fit into a narrower boot on that leg too!

Feb. 24, 2010, 01:13 PM
I also broke the talus and badly sprained my ankle. I walked on it -- or tried to -- for the first two weeks after the fall because I thought it was just a sprain and I'd get over it. Then I realized I really did want it to heal well and went to my dr. looking for a prescription for PT. he took one look, sent me to the surgeon... anyways... 8 weeks in a boot.
My advice:
1. DO YOUR PT!!!! Don't be a slacker and even as it starts to feel better, keep doing your PT.
2. If you don't have them already, go get zippers put in your tall boots now. The likelihood of being able to pull them on and off anymore is slim.
3. Do the excercise you can do -- PT, I swam a lot that winter, and did a lot of weightlifting where I could crutch over to a bench then sit and do upper body or do single-leg stuff on my good leg -- to keep the rest of you strong.

Today, I wake up stiff in that ankle every day, but I warm out of it and I am doing all the things I always did (running, biking, aerobics, etc.) without pain. Unfortunately, though, the riding is tough -- I just can't get that ankle down and put weight in it the way I used to, and I think that's made me less secure in the tack and uneven on my horse. Not to the point I can't ride or can't do as much, but I certainly notice it and I'm sure he does, too!

Feb. 24, 2010, 01:55 PM
Interesting to read that so many people got their hardware removed -- I didn't even know that was an option! I've had mine for almost ten years and wonder if having it out would still be an option or whether I should just leave it alone.

Feb. 24, 2010, 04:09 PM
Interesting to read that so many people got their hardware removed -- I didn't even know that was an option! I've had mine for almost ten years and wonder if having it out would still be an option or whether I should just leave it alone.

I have asked in the past and the doctor basically said if it isn't bothering me to leave it in. Like I said in my previous post I did a marathon on mine 18 months post accident and I still run 4 times per week (4-6 miles) and wear 3" heels on a daily basis and ride as well. I don't want to mess with it quite frankly, maybe down the line if I have arthritis or something.

My dad had the same surgery in '01 and he is quite active, gym every day and golf and no one ever mentioned removal to him either.

I am guessing it has something to do with the type of break, I had a very clean break and so did my father. A spiral fracture or a compound fracture come with a lot of complications that I didn't have to deal with.

Honestly, my ankle with the hardware is far more stable than my other one where I tore all the ligaments in the same accident, that one rolls all the time.

To the OP: I recommend the jointed stirrups, that really helped me. Plus I did a lot of trot sets in steeplechase length stirrups to work on getting flexibility back.