Dealing With A Bad Break

Screws and plate on broken fibula

“Give me a break”

No, this was not what I was thinking when I laced up to play hockey on Saturday, September 8th.

But, a break is what I was given. A freak collision/fall with a member of the opposing team left me with a broken fibula and a date with the surgeon a couple of days later. 6 screws and a plate now hold my lower fibula together as I come up on 4 weeks of healing. What has this 4 weeks taught me? Aside from patience, it has taught (more like reminded) me the stages that an athlete goes through when they are forced to take a complete break from training or competing.

1 – Shock

Your body produces some pretty intense internal responses to limit the pain when an injury initially occurs. This wears off quite quickly and then the shock of the situation starts to hit you and so does the pain. This stage is a bit of a blur.

2 – Disbelief/Denial

“I can’t believe I just broke my leg”! This was what I was thinking when I was sitting in Emergency. I was also secretly hoping it wouldn’t be as bad as I knew it probably was. As you are waiting for the X-Ray results you just hope that it won’t be as bad as you suspect. Once you get the definitive answer from the doctor is when this stage usually ends.

3 – Depression

I can’t be certain that everyone gets depressed after an injury that totally limits their mobility, but for those that are used to moving (especially for a living) it definitely effects your mood and your ability to deal with life events. The feeling of depression that I experienced also coincided with my coming off of some pretty heavy pain medication so this factor can not be ruled out.

4 – Acceptance

I think some athletes yo-yo between stage 4 and the next stage. I kind of accepted where I was at with this injury after a week or so and started researching how long it takes bones to heal. Dr. Google can pretty much give you the answer you want if you search hard enough. However, it is no substitute for the doctor or health care practitioner that is looking after you and has the correct answer.

5 – Anger

Does being injured make you bitter? That depends. Yes, it can be a pretty overwhelming emotion from time to time when you are unable to do simple tasks that force you to rely on the help of others. Perhaps it is more annoyance than anything, but it is important to remember that your injury is just as hard for those family and friends close to you.  When you are really injured those closest to you are the ones who have to pick up the slack and not only take care of you, but take care of the things you normally look after.

6 – Impatience

Currently this is the phase where I find myself. Coming up on 4 weeks means this is the longest I have gone without getting my heart rate up into the triple digits in as long as I can remember. I keep pushing those around me to let me get on the bike or start putting a little bit of weight on my leg. I am constantly reminded that there really isn’t a whole lot of short cuts to making bones heal faster and any attempt to do something on my leg could prolong healing and set me back. Needless to day, when you hear 4 – 6 weeks of non weight bearing you really just think 4 weeks.

An injury is not something that anyone (especially an athlete) wants to deal with, but unfortunately it is a risk we take when we enter into training, competition or simply being an active participant in life. This injury has reminded me how hard they are to deal with when they completely take you out and don’t allow you to swim, bike, run or even walk. Over the years I have had a few athletes experience injuries of this nature and while empathetic and full of what I consider proper good advice,  this injury has been a very strong reminder of what athletes go through and that even the best advice is cold comfort at times. The key is to do everything that you have been told to do by your doctors and health care practitioners. KNOW that it will heal and KNOW that you are not alone. You will get back in the game or back into training as quickly as possible if you simply let your body heal (a reminder to myself).

Mike Neill running at Kona 70.3 2018

Running back in June. Tattoo on lower left ankle now has a nice big slice through it.