Proper Preparation Part 5

by Colin Aina

Okay, let's continue on from Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4...

As I rode home on 93 South out of NH, I anxiously awaited an update on the extent of Ben's injury. I reflected on what a great day it was, despite the accident;

  • Despite a touch of humidity, the weather was pretty much perfect with light cloud cover and sun.
  • I was on my first real, long, multi-pitch rock route.
  • Physically, I felt great and was climbing well.

I was also anxious to get back on the route for some redemption. I thought about seeing if I could go back soon and retry the route. I figured that I should do so only with the same group and when Ben was able and ready.

I can't recall the exact time and wording, but I received a text from Ben later that day saying that the X-ray results showed a fractured tibia and that they put him in a boot. It was accompanied with the picture below...

Ben cast.jpg

Now...I was expecting the results to yield a fracture of some type, but not to the extent that had actually occurred. It appeared to me that Ben had sustained an unstable spiral oblique fracture. The first picture view is from the front and you can see the break but the real damage is shown in the 2nd, lateral view. In this, the slippage of the tibia as well as the break on the bias (oblique) is visible as well as a noticeable vertical break along the length of the bone. 

Anatomy lesson time!!!
The lower leg consists of 2 long bones, the tibia (shinbone) an the fibula. The first of which is entirely load bearing, the latter isn't. The fibula is thought of "as more of an anchor for many of the muscles of the lower leg," (quote courtesy of Podiatrist extraordinaire, Dr. Mark Enander. Check his video on proper shoe fit.)

It is actually possible for people to have a fractured fibula and despite some pain can have full function. Patricia Walsh, longtime member of 212, was training for the Newport Half Marathon and was complaining of some lateral calf tightness and dull pain. We kept an eye on it and treated it with massage and ice. She trained 2x per week in the gym and run/walk training outside, it improved within 2 weeks. The day of the race, after her warmup, she was barely able to jog without pain. The X-ray showed that she had a fractured fibula. 

I kept in touch with Ben the following days leading up to his orthopedic appointment. We both agreed that our plan of action and the rescue couldn't have gone any better than it did. We all got down safe, and without further injury to him. Over a weekend in November, I participated in a wilderness first aid certification course in New Hampshire. It consisted of classroom time as well as rescue scenarios in the field. I learned the proper way to splint a potential leg break and in hindsight, the one we constructed for Ben could have been a bit more robust. It should have looked like this...

Tom, a fellow climbing partner and splint guinea pig.

Tom, a fellow climbing partner and splint guinea pig.

Ben saw an orthopedic physician later that week and I was shocked with the outcome. They put him in a cast and there was to be no surgery(!). The plan was to be in a cast for 4 weeks and then onto an air cast or boot depending on the healing of the bone. These 4 weeks would end up being very trying for Ben. How would he support himself being that he depends on his body for his livelihood (no, he's not a stripper)? Being unable to climb and train and keep sanity through the great outdoors would be on hold until the 1 month follow up.