Broken Leg Recovery

Hi all

Im currently reovering from a fractured fibula (spiral fracture roughly 3 inches from the ankle, sustained after i went over my left ankle coming down some stairs).

Im due for the next set of x-rays on Thursday, when im hoping the cast will be removed. I asked the consultant, when the break was first diagnosed, how long it would be before i could run again, and he said "maybe 2 months".

Im currently 34, weigh around 95kgs and i was running c. 25km per week before the break.

I have visible atrophy on my thigh and lower leg (which i obviously cant see, but the cast is looser, so im presuming thats due to muscle wastage). So lots of BW work on my left leg (i have a new found respect for the one-legged squat...)

I plan to ask about physio when i go on Thursday, but i wasnt sure what they would add.

Does anyone have any advice ? or has a similar experience they can share ?




  • Have you looked into the possibility of Aqua Running? It's essentially running, but in a swimming pool. It's low impact but it works your leg muscles and cardiovascular system in the same way running does.

    I haven't tried it myself, nor have I ever broken my leg, but if you're eager to get back to running then it couldn't hurt to inquire. Apparently it's excellent for rehabilitation from broken bones.
  • I ruptured an ankle ligament a couple of years back and was in a cast for 6 weeks after having an op. Even with a weight bearing cast for 4 of the 6 weeks I still had quite a bit of muscle wastage on my right leg. It took me a good 4-5 months to be back to full strength with no serious niggles.

    I have no idea what it would be like with a break like yours but what I will say is that after about 2-3 weeks of physio I went for a 2.5 mile run and managed fine even though my physio told me I was an idiot. I carried on with the running and as long as I didn't go too hard I was fine and it even helped me get flexibility back in the joint.

    Good luck man, sounds nasty

  • My son broke his leg last year, it was a few months before he could play football again, but I was disappointed with the attitude of the orthopod and physio, clear muscle wastage, but "no need for physio" according to them.  I took him to  a private physio eventually after he was getting pains in his ankle and foot after matches, and after some pretty basic exercises over a few weeks he was fine.  

    So, imho, you will need some physio work after the plaster comes off, hopefully your doctors are a bit more conscientious than ours and you won't have to press them, or go private.

  • Look up Devotedtodistance, she's an expert on broken legs, and knows everything there is to know on the subject...image
  • SianceSiance ✭✭✭

    Daniel, get advice from a physio / therapist. What works for one on here might not be right for you. As Mr Puffy says a private therapist may be more beneficial if they've experience of sports injuries. They will be able to give you specific rehab to encourage good bone consolidation... and keep you sane.image

    D2D, docs are only 'overly cautious' because most haven't the training to advise patients - rehab's not their area. Unfortunately this doesn't help patients like yourself who are hell-bent on ignoring ANY advice, do their own version of 'rehab', and get set back with healing. 

  • CindersCinders ✭✭✭

    Daniel, definitely see a physio.  I had a spiral fibial fracture which ended up plated and pinned and the physio was fab in my case for recommended exercises.  Don't worry about the atrophy, it comes back in due course and don't rush back either or you'll end up at square one.  Think from break to back running it took me 16 weeks.

    Good luck.

  • thanks for the replies

    100% sold on my own physio. Luckily i have medical cover from work, so i can claim everything back

    I have a plan of recovery, and what you've said here about listening to my body and taking it easy has pretty much reinforced what i thought.

    Planning on starting with some walking in the morning (just round the block) and some stretching. See how that goes.

  • on that note, can anyone advise on a decent sports physio in the North West (Warrington) ?
  • CindersCinders ✭✭✭
    Sorry, can't help on that one, I'm very south east but good luck!
  • Hi there, I started reading this thread as I am a very keen runner and I have already booked a space in the Lochness marathon in October, however I fractured my fibula at the ankle joint, at the weekend, so I have only been in plaster 4 days so far.image

    I understand the importance of what has already been said re-recovery, however I am curious at what point did any of you start upper body or core work? As if possible while I am still in plaster I would like to maintain as much strength as possible.

    Also at what point did atrophy start to appear in the Quad? Can you do any light exercises whilst in plaster to help limit this damage?

    I assure you that even though I am obviously bored stiff and feeling a bit down,I will not be starting any recovery exercises until further down the line, I just wanted some advice from people who have been there.

    I take it anyone who has had a similar injury that you have made a full recovery? Just I also run xc which has been my better terrain and I am concious that with the uneven surfaces and sometimes the steep downhills,it may cause more concern for my ankle.

    Any advice is much appreciated!

  • I intended to continue upper body work whilst in plaster, but when it came to it, until the bone starts to knit tiogether, i found any movement quite painful. What i would be very careful of is the potential of knocking the leg whilst doing any exercise. Its will be pretty painful and could hinder any healing.

    IMO you should just take the knock and rest up until you get your cast off. Reality is that you wont lose much strength in 6 weeks, and you will use a surprising amount of both upper and core strength just getting about on one leg for 6 weeks !

    Im hoping to get mine off tomorrow morning, and provided im not in any significant discomfort, i will be back at the gym (for upper body and core) on Friday - but no leg work for a while.

    Have you considered what additional supplements you should be adding to your diet ? I know that some may disagree, but after doing some reading up on bone health and fracture recovery, i have been taking additional Vit C, Silica complex, calcium, zinc, magnesium and L-Lysine (sp) +  a big glass of milk with most meals. May help, may not, but i wanted to heal as effectively and quickly as possible, so i figure its worth the short term expense.

    Athrophy started about a week into it i would say. Hard to say how bad the calf area is, but there is definite athrophy in the quad. Prob about 20% i would say.

    Will you need a plate ?

  • Hi, thanks for advice.

    I go for my 2nd x-ray in the morning to see if is going to heal in plaster or op, I am hoping that NO op is needed as that can cause more complications. So since Sun, I have done what they said and lay down 24/7 except for the obvious relief req.

    I take cod liver oil, glucosamine and chondrtion everyday and multi-vitamins every other as it is. But yes I would possible take others that may help further.

    Hope you start your road to recovery on Friday like you plan!

  • i forgot about glucosamine, i take that as well

     good luck for tom

  • CindersCinders ✭✭✭

    Good luck for tomorrow Thorpey.

    You'll be surprised at how much your foot has atrophied too.  When my cast came off I was surprised to see a scrawny little foot! 

    Think I was also told at the time to make sure I got enough calcium too.

  • Ok cheers, think I will add more supplements to my daily diet, as I want to do everything I can!

  • Daniel Church wrote (see)

    Athrophy started about a week into it i would say. Hard to say how bad the calf area is, but there is definite athrophy in the quad. Prob about 20% i would say.

    Bear in mind that the wrapping in the plaster will compact a fair bit as well as the cast stretching slightly as you move and twist it, so it might not be as bad as you think. I remember the same thoughts when I had my ankle and shin in plaster because the cast did seem to get pretty loose after a week or so. It did atrophy quite a bit but not too badly.

  • Good news ! cast has come off - hurrah !

    No xrays this time. Consultant had a good old poke and feel and was happy that i had been weight bearing with no pain, so was happy to leave the cast off.

    Atrophy isnt that bad TBH. My leg is smaller, but not as bad as i expected. However, there is A LOT of swelling around the ankle and foot. I couldnt get one of my trainers onto the left foot its so swollen. I guess this is from the ankle being imobilised after a bad sprain. Swelling is particularly bad around the achilees tendon.

    No pain around the break area. Most discomfort is coming from my ankle.

    Advice from doc was to work up to walking with no pain, then try some light running (hard when you weigh 95kgs....), dialling it back if i get any excessive pain. I also asked aboyt physio, and he has referred me to the physio dept at the hospital, so thats good. He also advised on BW work on my legs for now, working up to light weight when i get full flexibility back.

  • CindersCinders ✭✭✭
    Great news Daniel, take is easy and keep the leg up for swelling when you can image
  • Re the swelling round your ankle, get your self 2 buckets of water one warm and one as cold as you can manage (iced is best but does hurt). Dunk your whole foot and ankle in the cold bucket for as long as you can tolerate, then swap to the warm one. Do that a couple of times and the swelling should go down almost instantly, then if you keep it raised above your hip it should stay down for longer.
  • Oooh this sounds painful! Poor you image

    I broke my ankles (playing netball!!!!!) just over a year ago and the doc told me that I wouldn't be able to run again! Thankfully he was wrong and I'm running more than ever now image I did lots of cycling when my casts came off and ran in the gym for a while to get my confidence back I was worried about getting injured miles from home! I went to the gym to cycle the day my cast came off...but by the sounds of it my breaks weren't as bad as a leg break as I had no swelling etc after cast was removed. Only thing I would say is that my running style has changed slightly but only enough for me to notice! My NHS physio was brill tho...esp. when I actually did the exercises she gave me!

    Good luck image

  • Congrats Daniel, I hope your recovery goes well!

    I had my 2nd app yesterday and was extremely relieved to hear that I do no need OP image

    I am obviously still on minimal movement, as I cannot put any wait on injured leg yet, I am back at the Hosp next Thursday to check on progress and he did say he might need to have my cast changed due to swelling and movement of the ankle that will have occurred, still don't know if, by then I will have a "weight bearing" cast, but it will have only been 2 wks so not really expecting.

    I have started with the extra supplements! Hope it helps.

  • Good news Thorpey

    I was offered a weight bearing cast, but opted to keep the standard cast. Main reason was by the time they offered me the new one, the existing one was comfortable, so i didnt really want to go through the initial discomfort again.

    I waited until the last week to put weight on it, and initially i was very careful. Be V careful.

    Day 1 has gone well. Im walking without crutches ok. I havent used them since i left the hospital. Most of my discomfort is coming from my ankle. Ankle area is very swollen, but loosening up. Next few days will be focusing on getting a much movement back in my ankle as possible.

    Back to the gym tom for some light upper body work.

  • Thats good news Daniel. I know everybody heals differently but it would be good to hear when you actually start running again, as I understand, you need to work on basic movements first and build up the strength again.

    On that matter does anybody know of any good running books, around getting back to running after breaking an ankle/leg? 

  • Its been 4 days since the cast came off

    I can walk ok, but with a bit of a hobble. Ankle flexibility is improving, but still some way off. No discernable pain at the break area. Still lots of swelling around the back of achilles tendon.

    Getting up the stairs is no problem, but getting back down is hard, as leaning forward i.e. bending at the knee and putting weight on the leg, is impossible just now.

    On the plus side, my physio appt is on Wed morning, so hopefully i will have a proper plan of attack after that. Ive been so impressed with Warrington NHS trust. You hear so many negative stories about the NHS. I dont go to hospital much, but Warrington have been very good indeed.

    Went to the gym tonight for the 1st time since the break. Taking it easy this week. Did 5 mins on the bike, which was ok. Think this will be my exercise of choice for the moment.

    May keep this thread going for those who are interested

  • Yes would be interesting to see how recovery goes, as my break is pretty much in the same place. Glad it seems ok so far!

    I have been trying to find information on training programmes, for returning to running after a "broken" ankle/leg however not had any luck so far!image

  • could be that there is no "one-size-fits-all" approach on recovery

    ill see what the physio says. Will post anything interesting.image

  • Day 5

    Usually on a Tuesday i would do a core and arms workout at the gym, but this has been changed to core and legs while i recover from this blasted leg break.

    Today i felt that my ankle, whilst less swollen, was more painful first thing. The pain subsided v quickly, but was noticable. The swelling around the ankle is subsiding and becoming more "plyable", and i have a bit more shape around the joint, where before there was no shape in my ankle due to the swelling.

    So in the gym i did a 10 mins on the bike, then 10 mins on the treadmill. The treadmill work was v slow walking, using the support bars. The aim here being to practice full walking movement for the ankle, especially the later part of the stride i.e. where your leg is behind you. This is the most painful part of the movement just now.

    Still struggling with any sort of squat movement.

    Ankle is a bit achey just now, but i feel that the session did it good.

    Physio at 8am tom morning.

  • CindersCinders ✭✭✭
    Think it took quite a while before I lost the hobble DC but it does go in the end.  Don't rush it though or you'll inflame the soft tissue (which I did!) image
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