/ Unfortunate accident

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supersteve 08 Jun 2019

Whilst bouldering at Rocher Avon a week ago at a diagonally rising line. The problem is not difficult but does have a slightly uneven landing. A mate nearby offered his 2 mats to accompany my two and spot me. Confident, I started off but struggled with the top out so hung down and dropped about a meter onto the mats. And crack....

I looked down and my right foot was 90 degrees to my leg. I sat down and after many profanities my mate called the emergency services. Oddly the ankle did not hurt so I thought I should try and push it back into place. That did hurt. 15 mins later the paramedics arrived and stabilised my leg, then due to our remoteness and difficulty to get back to the ambulance they called the helicopter. 10 mins later it was hovering overhead dropping the doctor to come and help. They strapped me in a harness, helmet and goggles and carried me to a slight clearing where I was winched up and taken to hospital. 

After a quick operation I was discharged the following day with my ankle strapped into a brace for the next 6 weeks, but somehow without any permanent damage. 

Few things I have learnt from this story. Firstly there is no such thing as a safe landing. Secondly, as I always have, it is vital to let someone know where you are going and when you expect to be back. Thirdly, always have your phone charged up (I have now bought a small solar charger - not much use in the UK though...). Fourthly, always try climb with someone else. Fifth, the French emergency services and hospital staff are amazing.

So no real moral - we all know climbing is dangerous and I will be back out as soon as I am able. Just an unfortunate accident. 

Jon Read 08 Jul 2019
In reply to supersteve:

Linking the gruesome picture (advisory, if you're eating your breakfast!) to the tale: https://www.ukclimbing.com/photos/dbpage.php?id=330381

Wishing you a speedy recovery! 

ChrisBrooke 08 Jul 2019
In reply to supersteve:

Sorry about your injury. Sounds like it's about as good as you could hope for...if you see what I mean. 

Not nearly as serious, but I once just jumped off the bottom ~3 ft of something at Burbage North during a very chilled boulder/solo session, onto a well placed mat and managed to twist my ankle and give myself a sprain that took about 6 months to stop bothering me... Idiotic and avoidable, but mostly just bad luck I think. As you say, it's a dangerous game, even in the most innocuous circumstances. 

Wishing you a speedy recovery. 

rogersavery 08 Jul 2019
In reply to supersteve:

Sixth - don’t assume no permanent damage until you have made a full recovery, there is a lot of complicated soft tissue around the ankle.

I hope the recovery goes well. Great photo!

Capricorn One 08 Jul 2019
In reply to supersteve:

I did something similar on The Chant at Burbage a couple of years ago. Back climbing but still recovering. Be prepared for it to take some time before you're back to where you were. Best wishes for a speedy and full recovery!

Lord_ash2000 08 Jul 2019
In reply to supersteve:

It's true about no the safe landings thing, I've fallen into some crap landings, missing pads etc before and been completely uninjured. Yet I once saw a guy I was climbing with indoors drop off, in control having completed his problem, land on the crash mats and do the same to his ankle as you have.  Obviously, it's not common but nothing is truly safe. 

Rigid Raider 08 Jul 2019
In reply to supersteve:

Crash mats seem to be responsible for a fair number of badly sprained or dislocated ankles: 

https://www.ukclimbing.com/forums/off_belay/sprained_ankle-706814

If you hope to land on a crash mat on your feet, be aware that the instability can cause you to sprain an ankle, especially if you happen to land on the edge of the mat. Obviously if you land on your back the mat can help save you from serious injury. Maybe this is the reason why parachutists are taught to land with both legs together. I think. 

Post edited at 12:48
Mark Kemball 08 Jul 2019
MonkeyPuzzle 08 Jul 2019
In reply to supersteve:

I’m reading this from a wheelchair in A&E with a balloon-sized ankle. No glorious climbing injury for me though; I turned my ankle falling off the curb at St Paul’s Carnival whilst wearing a comedy string vest, shit-faced.

Trangia 08 Jul 2019
In reply to Rigid Raider:

> Crash mats seem to be responsible for a fair number of badly sprained or dislocated ankles: 

> If you hope to land on a crash mat on your feet, be aware that the instability can cause you to sprain an ankle, especially if you happen to land on the edge of the mat. Obviously if you land on your back the mat can help save you from serious injury. Maybe this is the reason why parachutists are taught to land with both legs together. I think. 

Very interesting observations.

I wonder if research has been done into the number of bouldering injuries pre mats, and post mats? Certainly at Fontainbleau we never used mats in the 1980s, and over many years there was only one twisted ankle amongst the group I was climbing with. No mat certainly concentrated the mind, and when doing circuits you were constantly looking at the landings and sub continuously assessing how you would land if you came off. Roots and small uneven boulders were particular hazards to be aware of.

freeflyer 08 Jul 2019
In reply to Rigid Raider:

The basics of a parachute landing fall are taught to all Uk-trained paraglider pilots. There's lots of material online - might be useful to check it out. Doesn't look as pretty as a feather-light touchdown, but a bit of embarrassment can save on visits to the hospital,

Get well soon OP!

teh_mark 08 Jul 2019
In reply to supersteve:

Grim! I've been the victim of a non-accident myself, so I can empathise.

To the lessons you've already identified, I'd add hypothermia. Perhaps less a problem bouldering at Plantation, but as a general note you will get cold very quickly if you're completely immobile. Even if not dangerously so, being comfortable and broken is much better for morale than being both broken and uncomfortably exposed.

deepsoup 08 Jul 2019
In reply to supersteve:

> So no real moral - we all know climbing is dangerous and I will be back out as soon as I am able. Just an unfortunate accident. 

Well at least you got a helicopter ride out of it.
All the best for a fast & full recovery..

deepsoup 08 Jul 2019
In reply to freeflyer:

> .. parachute landing fall 

I find I need to do this often when bouldering indoors (or avoid falling off) or my knees rapidly get very grumpy about things.  It takes a fair bit of space, so I too get grumpy when people who really should know better are sitting around on the mats a tad too close to the walls and in slightly-too-narrow spaces between walls where there *obviously* isn't room to be sitting about in any case.  (I'm looking at you here, Climbing Works!)

supersteve 08 Jul 2019
In reply to supersteve:

Appreciate the solidarity. I see a specialist on Wednesday who I hope will then refer me to a physio. 6 weeks after the event I can now wiggle my big toe and the one next to it. But with the lack of ankle movement my calf had disappeared (and I had skinny legs to start with!). On a positive I have been training on the Beastmaker to help keep the weight off and defo feel stronger than before. Will keep you updated....

In reply to supersteve:

Was it a dislocation then, i.e. nothing broken?

supersteve 08 Jul 2019
In reply to purplemonkeyelephant:

Just dislocated. I am a lucky boy...

Rigid Raider 09 Jul 2019
In reply to supersteve:

You're not!  You'd have done better to break a tib or fib, which would heal in a few weeks. A dislocation or bad sprain will leave you with a stretchedor torn ligaments and a permanently weakened ankle, which will continue to go over for the rest of your life. 

supersteve 09 Jul 2019
In reply to Rigid Raider:

From the scans and x-rays I have had so far since the incident (the French like to do lots of hospital stuff as they can then invoice for it...) there is no sign of any permanent stretching or tears - everything at this stage has settled back into place. That's why I say I am lucky - the doc can't believe how little damage their is (which probably disappoints him as he can't justify an operation to pay for his summer holiday). I can now focus on physio to build back some strength. I am aware I will need to strap my ankle each time I climb for support, or just not fall off....

Toerag 09 Jul 2019
In reply to Rigid Raider:

I landed on an edge of a 6" gym mat at my local wall a few years back and essentially rolled my ankle before hitting the floor with it rolled. It's still not right, and the doc said it looks like I fractured my lower leg without realising it. My feet were at knee height when I came off the wall.

freeflyer 09 Jul 2019
In reply to supersteve:

>> I can now focus on physio to build back some strength.

This. From personal experience I've found that walking, especially cross-slope with the bad ankle downhill, is a good strengthening exercise which gives plenty of feedback on how everything is doing, and you can vary the slope, clearly, while still getting out and about. Your injury is different from mine however so you'll need to experiment.

While I agree with RR's main point, I'd also suggest that the body has evolved to be a self-healing machine, subject to the laws of physics and anatomy, and what seems like a miracle can often be achieved without surgical intervention. Improving strength and flexibility in the whole area has been the key for me, also finding a physio who knows what they're doing.

Iamgregp 09 Jul 2019
In reply to Trangia:

That's actually a very interesting question. It seems counter intuitive that addition of boulder mats would decrease safety but it has parallels with the use of protective headgear in amateur boxing - the introduction of headgear actually caused an increase in head injuries so have now been dropped https://www.iseh.co.uk/news/latest-news/new-page-44 

I wonder if there is anything approaching a comprehensive study being carried out?  The BMC reporting system will be a good tool for capturing data.

MonkeyPuzzle 09 Jul 2019
In reply to Toerag:

> I landed on an edge of a 6" gym mat at my local wall a few years back and essentially rolled my ankle before hitting the floor with it rolled. It's still not right, and the doc said it looks like I fractured my lower leg without realising it. My feet were at knee height when I came off the wall.

Yeah, if they're up by your knees then something is definitely wrong.


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