A Broken Wrist: Coping After A Mountain Bike Accident


It was on January 9th that I had an accident on my mountain bike at 5:45am and broke my wrist, well technically I did this:

impacted intra-articular fracture of left distal radius with ulnar styloid fracture

In simpler language the impact from my crash forced the ulna and radius under my wrist and there was a nasty fracture on the ulnar, which at the time I initially discounted, but later learned it was bad, really bad.

For the first couple of weeks my mind was occupied by the concern I may need corrective surgery and what the impact of that would be, I was also concentrating on managing pain and sleep. As time progressed the potential of surgery is fading, which has given me time to reflect on other aspects of the injury, which I’d like to share.

Managing Pain
As anyone who’s been in a mildly traumatic accident will tell you, it’s amazing what adrenalin will do for you. It’ll propel you along until you can get to safety. In my case it got me to where I could get mobile phone coverage and then on to meet the rescue crew. I’ve had conversations with other people who have managed to get themselves much longer distances than I did, so clearly this is something that works. However once you get to safety there better be some good pain relief on hand or you’re going to encounter a lot of discomfort and some misery.

Once you are in the hands of capable medical professinals, then next bits should all pass pretty well, you’ll most likely be unaware of parts of your treatment and that’s good, don’t question it too much. Just get things written down or if you have a buddy/partner about, please make sure they get a good understanding of how you are being/to be treated. No doubt post treatment (if you have avoided a hospital stay), you’ll be sent on your way with a prescription and some instructions… follow the instructions, fill the prescription and don’t be an ass!

Pain management is not about making the pain vanish in a blissful haze, it’s about making you comfortable and able to function. Modern painkillers work on the theory of being kept topped up, a little generally goes quite a distance.

I made a mistake of thinking I would need less in volume and frequency, as I tend to have a high tolerance for mild discomfort. The result was I was not sleeping properly; my sleep was broken and shallow and I was waking at 3:00am and it hurt… it hurt a lot.

The lesson learnt is manage the pain, don’t let it manage you.

You’re Injured… You Idiot
The quickest way to lose any sympathy at my home is to ignore your injury or illness and keep plodding on. It’s a lesson I’m incredibly bad at learning and there is really no excuse for it. The kids do not need a three-course meal, they can survive on sardines on toast and an apple each if they have to… you do not need to wash the car, vacuum the house, bake fresh scones and make the strawberry jam… just fucking stop, sit down and heal.

If you push yourself, your injury will take longer to heal, hell in fact it may not heal, you could be doing more damage. In most cases you’ll be back on track in a handful of weeks, most likely that’s a shorter timeframe than you set aside for studying to get to university (or similar), just let it go. Be prepared to let others help you, as you’ll just look like a tool as you sit crying through the pain of tying your shoe laces… I’m not saying that’s from personal experience… but it could be.

Eat and Sleep Your Way Through It
If you have broken bones, you’ll need to support your body as it heals. Good things to add into your diet are fresh milk (raw milk is perfect if you can get it), other sources of calcium, such as cheese, broths and soups made with bones, meat cooked on the bone (lamb chops are great) and fruit high in vitamin C and green salads. Also seriously consider cod liver oil, arnica drops and additional vitamin C. I’ve used a homeopathic treatment called repair tonic, which is specifically for helping to heal bones and fractures.

Get regular sleep, just because you don’t have to get up for the pre-dawn ride does not mean you should stay up late playing Xbox, surfing porn and generally just wasting time, sleep is what you need.

Working Through It
Chances are you’ll need to make some adjustments and it’s really important to keep your employer informed and they’ll be able to accommodate you. Be upfront about what you have done, what the injury means, what treatment you’ll be having and if anything changes. You may have options, such as remote working, car-pooling/providing transport, a temporary assistant etc.

If you work for yourself, the impact is going to be different. Think about what would happen if you were restricted in how much you could earn… what would happen? Maybe it’s time to talk to your accountant and insurance provider to make sure you’ll have the support you need, if you ever do need it. Options could be insurance policies, or maybe ensure you have money saved up to cover time not-working or providing a contractor to do your work.

Just remember, you’ll get better, but don’t rush it. Take your time, otherwise you’re job could end up pushing your full recovery out further.

The Little Things
I’ll be honest I’ve been supported by my family and my employer really well after my accident, the challenge has been for me to allow that to happen. Our household is one of shared duties, food, cleaning, kids etc and suddenly being unable to cook, do the dishes, drive (both our cars have manual gearboxes) and work in the garden has left me often feeling with a sense of loss. I find myself wandering around the house unable to help and not accepting that I just cannot.

The flip-side of my sudden uselessness is that our kids have taken on more responsibility and it’s great to see them helping out.

My cast is really heavy, especially since they kept the original plaster and re-enforced it with fibreglass… I’m completely over the bloody thing now, it gets in the way, but I’m glad I live in a country with a temperate climate, as I’d be miserable if it was snowing and I had to butcher a jacket to fit the cast.

I’ve never admitted to having lightning reflexes, but reflexes I do have and they are my greatest undoing right now, because if something becomes unbalanced when I’m moving it, or knock something I grab with my damaged left arm and all that awaits me is a world of pain… and lots of swearing (interesting fact, if this happens my kids have become immune to my groans and the repeated use of the word fuck… maybe I need to think on this one a bit?). I should be more mindful, but 45 years of having it work fine has me thinking that’s still the case.

To sum it all up, it’s certainly been a learning experience, I’m very grateful to the excellent medical support and treatment I have received, the most excellent support of my wife Carla and my kids, Olle, Rose and Luka, y’all are my rock/s and the support from my work colleagues and managers.

One final thing… I’ve not really been counting the days… but roll on February 19th, 2:00pm when this damn cast should be coming off and I'll be counting down to when I'm allowed to ride again.

Source: These Broken Paths

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