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Broken arm

Bike accident


Fantasy Football

Spirally fracturing my right Humerus

Around 3pm on Thursday 15th November 2001, while playing Innebandy (a Nordic game, indoor hockey is the easiest way to describe it), I had the misfortune to collide with a wall at the end of the pitch at high speed. Unfortunately I was quite close to the wall when I fell, and a foot on my feet and stick meant I had no way of stopping myself going over. At first it looked like my head and neck would make contact low down the wall, but I managed to throw out my right arm to break the fall, literally as it turned out. My wrist deflected off the wall and I twisted to the left as I fell, and my right elbow made firm contact with the wall. Thus all the force of the impact was taken by the upper right arm between elbow and shoulder. I have a vivid slow motion memory of my right arm at a strange angle across my body to the left, and was then lying on the floor on my left side with my right arm on top of my body.

At first I thought I had dislocated my shoulder, or something similar, and there was no immediate pain so I just lay there, worried about moving. I managed to get up after a short while, rolling my body to the right and letting gravity move the right arm into a hanging position (accompanied by much crunching - at the time I though ligaments and tendons, even though the main discomfort was from half way up the arm). Of course I would later find out that the arm had fractured, spirally, and there was nothing wrong with my shoulder at all.

Well, that was the end of the game for that day, and Anders very kindly fetched his car and drove me Karolinska hospital to be checked out. If I kept the arm still it was OK, and with help managed to get a pair of jeans on, a shirt and my coat over my shoulders. Swedish casualty is fun to start with - you have to pay 240SEK just to get in (I don’t know what happens if you don’t have any money with you!) - and as I hadn’t the cash I had to pay with my card - so one of the first things I did was sign the visa slip left handed while a fractured right arm was hanging by my side! We’re at around 4pm now.

Othorpedics were pretty quick to see me to start with, and I was examined by a student doctor and a student physiotherapist. Later the proper physio came in and checked my out, to make sure, and they sent me off to X-ray to find out more. Half an hour waiting to go to X-ray, half an hour waiting to be seen, and then another half an hour waiting for the films makes it a very slow process. Unfortunately I didn’t have a book with me :-( (see image 1)

By 7.15pm I’m back in orthopedics, having had the X-ray technician confirm that the arm was fractured. I guess I knew this as when I was lying on the trolley waiting to go to X-ray I could feel the upper arm moving side to side when I tried to move my elbow, but the elbow and lower arm weren’t going anywhere! Anyway, they applied a plastic brace to the upper arm, gave me a couple of days supply of pain killers and sent me home around 8.15pm, saying it would probably take 8-10 weeks to heal with the brace applied, and I was given two weeks off work to start with. (see image 2)

For the first week it was very difficult to do anything, especially getting out of and getting into bed, as the slightest movement was very uncomfortable. The following Friday the swelling went down quite a bit and I was able to remove the brace to take a shower, which was well needed! Gary kindly provided his services as photographer and standby lifeguard should anything untoward happen in the shower! (see images 3 & 4)

The 28th saw me back to hospital for a checkup, which went OK and a new X-ray was taken. This showed little change from the ones two week’s previously, which the doctor said was a good thing as the bone hadn’t moved. Arrangements were made for me to start seeing a physio, as it was important that gentle excercising started ASAP. Another two weeks off work as well, as it’s not easy when you can’t write and only type slowly left handed. (see image 5)

In mid December I went to see the physio for the first time, and was shown a number of swinging excercises to do on a daily basis. These would help with the mobility of the shoulder joint and upper arm, though it would take a lot of work in the future to get back the strength of the arm as well, anything from 3 months to a year most likely. As December went by the arm got better on a daily basis, and the range of movement was good. I was able to return to work the week before Christmas and was surprised how quickly two handed typing came back.

January 2nd 2002 and my final appointment with the specialist as it turned out. A day short of 7 weeks after the accident and I was able to remove the plastic brace permanently, which was a relief I can tell you. The X-rays show signs of new bone growth above and below the fracture, and although the bone still looks far from healthy on the X-ray it is not painful to the touch. The range of movement in the joint is good, though there is still a long way to go before things are back to normal again. It is difficult to lift the arm by itself (4/1/02) and I have a new set of excercises to do every day. (see images 6 & 7)


Well, just over a year on and the arm is fine - I managed to play outdoor football (soccer for our friends over the Pond) with no problems in May (including the occasional tumble) and I now have no more excuses for not going to the gym so often :-)

Training Tips

It seems this page is read more often than I first thought, and I have received a number of e-mails asking for tips on rehabilitation. Below are some notes I made shortly after breaking the arm - I make them available here in the hope they might be useful to someone.

At the hospital they were very keen for me to try and move the arm as soon as possible, though I wasn't too keen myself. As soon as the swelling went down I was able to move it a little, and that's when the rehab started.

The physio suggested the following exercises to me to start with, with the emphasis on little and often, so I was to do this set two to three times a day, every day.

You need to find something to lean down on with your good arm, the end of a sofa, a chair back or something like that, and lean forward slightly with your body, your broken arm just hanging by your side, with your legs straight.

The first exercise is to just gently swing your arm forwards and backwards ten times. Only go as far as is comfortable.

The second and third exercises are to make small circles with your arm, first clockwise and then anticlockwise. Again do ten of each. You'll start with small circles, as as the muscle builds up you should be ablt to make the circles bigger. Again, it's a case of not pushing it and listening to your body.

Finally I was to lie on my back on the bed, and with the help of my good arm try and raise my broken arm up, but not to push if there was resistance. Again a set of ten.

To begin with the movements and radius of the circle will be small, but over time the movements should increase as you persuade your shoulder muscles to work again.

When you lean forward you allow your arm to have much more free movement, and it's surprising how a little movement in that position is like moving your arm 45 degrees when you stand straight up.

Once you are happy with moving the arm (a few weeks? a month? it's all down to how you feel really) then you need to start putting some simple strength exercises in. It's a long process, as it will take anything up to a year before the bone is fully healed, though you probably don't notice the difference yourself after a few months (well I didn't).

I was given a piece of elastic by the physio (they are colour coded for different strengths and resistances) and some more exercises e,g, tying the elastic to a door handle and doing various pulls on it (forwards, backwards, sideways) making sure the elbow stayed still and it was the bicep/shoulder doing the work, putting it under my foot and doing simple curls, and also holding a stick/broom handle in both hands and trying to raise my arms up in front of me (this way the good arm can (and will!) help the bad one). But for these you're probably best visiting a physio at least once to get some guidance on how to do the exercises and check up on what shape you're in. I only went three times to the physio, as the arm was doing OK and it was just a case of doing the exercises.