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Coming back from a broken ankle...

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  • Coming back from a broken ankle...

    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

  • #2
    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.


    • #3
      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
      Honey Badger don't give a s*#^!

      "..a three-day event is not a test of speed and endurance, it is a test of character" ~JW


      • #4
        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.


        • #5
          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.
          Hillary Rodham Clinton - the peoples choice for president.


          • Original Poster

            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!


            • #7
              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. 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! 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.
              "A good feeling after the round is better than any ribbon." ~ Bert de Némethy


              • #8
                oh yea

                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!
                Honey Badger don't give a s*#^!

                "..a three-day event is not a test of speed and endurance, it is a test of character" ~JW


                • #9
                  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!
                  Jazz- 4.9.01 OTTB, loved since 12.6.09
                  Skip- 3.3.91 APHA, i miss you buddy


                  • #10
                    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!
                    Topline Leather -- Bespoke, handwoven browbands & accessories customized with Swarovski crystals, gemstones, & glass seed beads. The original crystal braid & crystal spike browbands!


                    • #11
                      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. 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.


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by LHead View Post
                        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.


                        • #13
                          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!


                          • #14
                            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!


                            • #15
                              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.
                              "If you can't feed 'em, don't breed 'em."


                              • #16
                                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.
                                Cascadia- OTTB mare. 04/04-05/10
                                If love could have saved you, you would have lived forever


                                • #17
                                  I've broken both ankles and just have issues getting my heels down to where they used to go.
                                  To be loved by a horse, or by any animal, should fill us with awe-
                                  for we have not deserved it.
                                  Marion Garretty


                                  • Original Poster

                                    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


                                    • #19
                                      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!
                                      Honey Badger don't give a s*#^!

                                      "..a three-day event is not a test of speed and endurance, it is a test of character" ~JW


                                      • #20
                                        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!).