The athlete and the broken bone (and dreams)

Yesterday I told you how my son had achieved his dream of qualifying for the national athletics competition. After coming second at the regional competition, with a massive long jump PB of 6.51, his coaches said: ‘Now wrap him in cotton wool’.

They were joking of course. He’s young and fit. He needed to keep training and keep competing.

He had two more competitions before the big day – both representing his club. There was one for his own age group, which we knew he would win by a significant margin (because he’d already competed agains the same boys and clubs previously). His main aim in that one was actually to win the triple jump and get a new triple jump PB. He was also going to compete for the senior (ie adult) team – and was still expected to finish near the top.

He’d complained a bit about some discomfort in his hip, but hadn’t felt it much. On the morning of his competition he hadn’t felt it at all. He’d warmed up thoroughly and done some practise runs. As the competition was local, my parents, sister, brother-in-law, niece and nephew had gone along. My husband and daughter were running slightly late, as they had been to drop my eldest off at the airport for his first holiday without ‘proper’ adults.

My son is doing GCSE PE and is expected to get 100% for his long jump. We have to video all of his jumps. I set the video going. My son ran, he took off, he landed, he tried to get up and he collapsed back into the sand. I’m on video saying ‘Are you OK?’ and his pained voice comes back: ‘No’.

He lay in the sand and couldn’t move. He couldn’t straighten his right leg. First aiders and concerned coaches came over. Four of us carefully lifted him out of the sand. Then we had to lift him further away from the sand in case any of the other competitors fell out of the sand onto him. My husband and daughter arrived. My parents and sister were milling around, looking upset. The other competitors started jumping again. An umbrella was brought over to shelter my boy from the sun. A coach’s hoodie was put under his head.

The event organiser put in a call to 111. The phone was passed to my son. Then it was snatched by another coach who started talking about a particular bone and particular sort of fracture it could be. It hadn’t even occurred to me that it could be a broken bone. I’d just thought it was a pulled muscle. My son had already shed tears over the national competition, but I really believed he would be there. Kids mend quickly. It was just a pulled muscle. He’d need a few days rest and then he would be back.

111 transferred to 999. There was more to and fro-ing with the phone. Date of birth again, address again, stadium address again.

More than an hour after his injury, the ambulance arrived. The long jump competition was over. I hadn’t really been watching, unsurprisingly, but I’d had an inkling that my son had still won it, despite only jumping once. I knew he’d want to know, so I checked with the official. Yes, he’d won by over 50cm, despite his horrendous injury.

The paramedics had no idea what was wrong with him, but could see how much it hurt to try and move him. They gave him gas and air to transfer him to a stretcher. A few breaths and my son was laughing hysterically. He didn’t like the gas and air and didn’t know why it made him want to laugh. I got in the ambulance with him and held his hand for the whole journey. My son is not someone who likes affection (only me and my daughter are allowed to give it to him), but I held onto his hand through the whole ordeal, from when he landed painfully right through to leaving hospital.

Ambulance, Son, Long jump, Athlete, 365, The athlete and the broken bone (and dreams)

I had a moment of panic in the ambulance. Maybe my husband should have gone in the ambulance and I should have driven? I’m claustrophobic and it felt all wrong in there. But my son needed me and I calmed myself down. There were so many potholes, speed bumps and roundabouts on the journey. He learned to take the gas and air when they approached.

As he’s 15, my son was admitted straight to the children’s area of A&E. He was given ibuprofen and morphine (tasted horrible, apparently) and wheeled off for an X-ray. My husband arrived when he was in X-ray.

‘He’ll have to sleep in the spare bed for a few days.’ (His own bed is up a high ladder.)

But then my husband said: ‘He’s not going home today.’

I hadn’t even considered that. I still thought it was all a dreadful mistake, he’d just pulled a muscle and he was going to be competing at nationals.

He had broken the exact bone, in the exact way, the coach at his club had predicted. When he’d jumped, he’d pulled a muscle which had pulled a little bit of bone from his pelvis away. Would it still have happened at a later date if he hadn’t jumped that day? Was his hip pain a factor? I don’t know.

The doctor broke the news to my son that there would be no sport for three months. He really cried for nationals then. It was his absolute dream and his dream had been shattered, along with his pelvis. It will affect the start of the rugby and football seasons too. There is a potential place in the first team for rugby at school (very rare for a year 11 to be in the first team) and there’s his exciting rugby team. All of those things are in jeopardy now.

My son had been transferred (painfully) from bed to bed and wheeled backwards and forwards around the hospital. His feet hadn’t been on the ground since his jump, but suddenly the doctor said he was getting crutches and going home! They pulled him up to his feet and put his arms in the crutches. The doctor told the healthcare assistant to get a wheelchair to take him to the car.

Then he started saying ‘Chair! Chair!’. I thought he was still telling him to get the wheelchair, but then I realised that the doctor was basically hugging my son. The doctor had seen from my son’s face that he was about to faint and was holding him up until someone could shove a chair under him. The healthcare assistant was slow to react because he thought the doctor was still talking about the wheelchair too. A couple of cups of water and a couple of biscuits (he’d eaten nothing since breakfast and it was now late afternoon) and my son was in the wheelchair heading for the car.

Getting him in and out was painful. He has no control over his right foot, so it has to be physically lifted by hand. He can rest it on the ground and drag it, but of course he can’t put any weight on it.

Within hours, his spirits had lifted. He was coming to terms with using his crutches and getting up and down from a chair. He even made it up the stairs, with some help from my husband.

I don’t doubt that it will be a long, slow road to recovery. He may not make it back to school this year. He’s not going to enjoy the school holidays as much as he should do. He won’t be going for a walk with my husband and I every evening like he usually does. He won’t make it to his 50 parkrun milestone this year. But it could have been a lot worse.

And he will be back. Working towards his dream of jumping at the national competition. Watch this space!

Long jump, Son, Athletics, Athlete, 365, The athlete and the broken bone (and dreams)

Author: Sarah Mummy

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  1. Oh Sarah, how sad for him. I’m so sorry to hear of his injury. I hope his pain is easing and he can begin recovery soon.

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    • Thanks very much, it is so sad! I’d never seen him in such pain, but it has eased quite quickly. The only thing he can’t do now is lift his knee – so he has to physically lift it with his hand. He’s in good spirits now, but I think he will find it hard in two months when he still can’t do sport.

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  2. Oh my goodness. What an ordeal for you all. You must have been so worried. Your poor boy must have been heartbroken not being able to compete in the nationals. I know he loves his sport so I hope he makes a speedy recovery and is back jumping when he is well enough. x

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    • Thanks very much. He was devastated about nationals when it happened, but a few days on he seems to be dealing with it very well. I expect it will hit him again next week when he is supposed to be there. All being well, he will get himself back to full strength and will be able to qualify again next year. x

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  3. Gosh, what a horrible injury. I’m so sorry to hear it happened and put a stop to his brilliant season. I do hope he heals quickly and that he’s back ready for nationals next season.

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    • Thanks very much! It was such a horrible thing to happen. Everyone keeps telling us he will get his strength back and make it to nationals next season, so I really hope that’s the case. x

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  4. Oh my goodness, your poor son. Really hope that his pelvis heals well and that his recovery is as smooth as possible. I can imagine it must be very hard not to be able to do any sport for the next three months. Well done to him though for winning the long jump and hope that he will be fighting fit and ready to get back into it after his pelvis has healed x

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    • Thanks very much, I really hope so! He has already made incredible progress this week, which has given us all confidence he will be able to get back to normal. It seems there is quite a grey area between ‘exercise’ and ‘sport’, so he will be able to do things like cycling and swimming in a few weeks to build his strength up, he just won’t be able to do long jump, rugby and football.

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  5. what a horrible thing to happen. I guess there is no way to strap this or immobilise it while it heals then? Son was the same with the broken collarbone.
    I hope he recovers fully and gets back to all his activities.

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    • Thanks very much. He seems to be recovering very well so far. There’s nothing that can be done other than taking a break from sport and gradually introducing exercise. He needs both the muscle and the bone to heal.

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  6. Hi Sarah, I am so sorry to read about your son’s accideny! He must be more than gutted! Wishing him a speedy recovery!


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    • Thanks very much. He was really gutted. He’s making a good recovery so far, but isn’t allowed to do sport for three months. X

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