Earlier this year, my son suffered an avulsion fracture on his pelvis. Avulsion fractures are usually related to sport and are more common in young people who are growing quickly. My son’s fracture was caused by pulling a muscle while doing long jump, which pulled his bone away. He was in a lot of pain and was taken to hospital by ambulance.
He made remarkable progress in his recovery in the first week. You can read about that here.
By the end of the second week, my son could get up the stairs normally, could bend his knee and raise his foot up off the ground, could swing his leg sideways and had given up his crutches completely. He could get in and out of the car without physically lifting his bad leg with his hands and he had also walked a parkrun (3 miles/ 5k). In fact, on that first parkrun day, he ended up walking a total of nine miles.
Three weeks after his accident, he walked parkrun in 37 minutes – beating several runners. He bought himself a Fitbit watch to help his recovery and was committed to walking his 10,000 steps (and often a lot more) every day.
Four weeks after his accident, he finally had his physio appointment. I was amazed by his range of movement. The physio said his recovery was ahead of where she would have expected it to be. She said the walking would probably have helped, and that a lot of people are nervous of doing much walking for fear of doing further damage. I know I was initially nervous of him doing too much, but I soon realised that he wouldn’t do it if he was in pain.
His main weakness was in the glute area, on both sides. Lack of exercise, plus compensating for his injury, had affected his left side as well as his right. She gave him three exercises to do to start gently building up his strength. He needed to do them at least once a day – and preferably twice. She also said swimming and cycling would help his recovery, although he isn’t keen on either. We discussed that he needed to get back to county-level athletics and she said that shouldn’t be a problem.
I had worried about how we would cope on holiday in Nice, only four weeks after his accident. Needless to say, we had no problems at all. It really was hard to even remember that he’d ever been injured, as he was walking further and faster than most people who don’t have a broken pelvis.
He went swimming once after his first appointment and ended up with horrendous cramp, even needing the lifeguard to help him. While we were on holiday in Nice, he went on the exercise bikes in the gym a couple of times. He’s not keen on cycling outside with all the extra considerations of traffic and safety.
At his second physio appointment, he’d made good progress, in fact his right (injured) side was better than his left! He was given harder exercises to do. One of the exercises was unrelated to his injury and was to address general tightness in his legs, which could have gone on to cause a different injury.
And he asked the killer question – could he start running yet?
She agreed he could start gentle jogging – not a full 5k straightaway, but he could break the distance up with some running and some walking. He then set himself a target to start sprinting four weeks later – that would be 10 weeks after his accident. Sprinting is the basis of all the sports he does and he needs to know that he can do that safely before adding in the extra impact of jumping or being tackled.
He ran his first parkrun the next day – slower than usual, but he did run it all. A week later, he did Eden Project parkrun in under 25 minutes.
We had worried about the stairs at the Airbnb in Padstow, as we knew it was in a loft and the stairs were very steep. Needless to say, they proved to be no problem at all, although they would have been impossible in the first few days after his accident. Around the time we went to Padstow, my son started jumping up and down everywhere. He was literally bursting to get back to sport and I kept shouting at him to stop jumping. We were all nervous that he might hurt himself again if he did too much too soon, but deep down I thought he would only do it if he was able to do it.
He wasn’t quite as good at sticking to his exercises between his second and third appointments. But the physio was still very pleased with his progress. So pleased, that she signed him off! She said he was back to full strength and had recovered quicker than would be expected. She gave him an extra exercise to do and said that he should do his exercises three or four times a week in the long-term – especially when he is doing sport – to prevent further injury.
Sadly she wouldn’t give him permission to sprint before the three months is up though. So that could mean he won’t actually be able to start football, rugby and long jump until a couple of weeks after he’s started sprinting. That wasn’t what either of us wanted to hear, as it means he will miss almost half of the school rugby season. But we know that taking his time and getting his recovery right is the most important thing.
The final part of my son’s long road to recovery and back to sport is here.