Recovering from Nightmare

Clutches, bandages, X-rays and MRIs are climber’s nightmare. When Dr Gony handed me a pair of clutches and asked me ‘ Do you know how to use them?’ I was like, ‘Doc, you gotta to be kidding me right?’

It all started when we were doing a photo shoot for Elephant Slacklines in Feb 2012. I was so hooked on slacklining then that i thought nothing of not wearing shoes during tricking. So I went on jumping and bouncing and… It was a double leg grab from a butt bounce and I land with my ankle in a inversion position.

Yes, it hurt a bit at the beginning and I thought no big deal, just another minor sprain and I will just walk it off. Well not really, as i found myself chair ridden at the end of the session and I had to call Kelly to come to the gym and drive me home. Instead of heading home, we decided to check the ankle out at the A&E in Changi General Hospital as now my ankle is swollen to a mega size pork knuckle look alike feet.

The doctor’s first look was, ‘ Dude I think you broke your ankle. ‘ I was in total denial mode and told him it can’t be as i could still walk and do crap after the ‘sprain’. I guessed he’s seen loads of patient like this and sent me straight to the X Ray room. The good news is, i did not break bones but it seems like some widening in my Tibia and Fibula. So that suggested some possibility of high ankle sprain. Which didn’t sound bad until I googled it.

A high ankle sprain injures the large ligament above the ankle that joins together the two bones of the lower leg. These two bones, the tibia (shin bone) and fibula, run from the knee down to the ankle.

I was smashed, first i can’t walk for like god knows how long and now it looks like they are going to put a screw in my leg. I thought great! now its really the end of climbing and slacklining for me. The A&E ward nurses packed me up in Jone’s bandage to keep the ankle comfortable and swelling down before sending me off. Basically Jone’s bandage is placing a lot of cotton wool between my feet and the compression bandage so to give my entire feet a comfortable compression.

I was scheduled to go to the specialist in a few day’s time but i couldn’t wait so instead I went to my usual chinese doctor. Big mistake, and later i found out why. Thats us having some fun in the treatment room.

Im really not smiling
Im really not smiling

It doesn’t matter if he was pressing any part of my feet or calfs, any contact with the area of injury just hurts like mad. I left the chinese clinic more hurt than ever. Well cut the long story short, after specialist saw me at the sports clinic he did a bed side ultra sound scan on my leg and this is his diagnosis,

right ATFL grade 2-3 tear, tibia list anterior strain, AITFL intact. Physiotherapy for 2 months. 

Taping up the ankle helps to keep it in place and prevent another inversion sprain. (Week 3 looking better)
Taping up the ankle helps to keep it in place and prevent another inversion sprain. (Week 3 looking better)

That meant light activities and out of action for sometime and back to Ting Chin’s (my cute physiotherapist) office! Well losing the ATFL was not cool too as it means that you could easily tear it again if I was was not careful or if I did not strengthen the muscles around it well enough. However I was just very glad that no screw has to be placed in my leg and no operation to be done.

At first we had to do exercises to regain the range of movement for my ankle, it was like learning how to walk again. We had to do like assisted single leg squats and a lot of stretching as my achilles was hurting like mad. Ting Chin also gave me a tubby grip to wear every time I had to walk around. I returned the clutches to Doc Gony after 2 miserable weeks of acquaintance with it and Week 3 I was pushing my luck a bit and started to get back to the slackline. No double knee grabs this time but just standing and balancing on the line for as long as i can on both legs. Just like how we usually do it during workshops for newbies.

4.5 weeks later in Ting Chin's office
4.5 weeks later in Ting Chin’s office

4th week i was up and trying to walk a little on a 6m slackline forward and backwards. It felt great that i was doing something already and it did help me psychologically in terms of recovering. Im pretty sure that my balance was much better than 2 weeks ago as i could barely balance on my left feet with my eyes closed for 2 seconds. Now i could do that for 15sec and still going strong. 3 months into the injury, the swell is out and I just did my first IPPT with a 9min 20 secs for my 2.4 run.Thats not too bad for recovery! More long lines and climbs ahead!

The advice to all those who have an injury is to Rest, Ice, Compress and Elevate within the first 48hours. The idea is to get as little swelling as possible so its much easier for the doctors to do a ultra sound scan or a MRI later on. After which strengthening regime in the post recovery stage is important and that will prevent your ankle from getting future injuries. For mine case I am a lazy guy and I can’t just sit there for 20 minutes doing squats so instead of getting on rehab exercises, I was using the slackline as a rehab tool for getting my body to learn how to balance all over again. It also strengthens the muscles around the ankle which is important for preventing future injures!

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