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  1. #1
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    Radial Head Fractures Thoughts?

    So I'm riding in an area I was unfamiliar with and going much faster than I should have been for not knowing the terrain. That was, in hindsight, a bad idea... but to make matters worse my gear snaps. Basically I'm pedaling air for about a half second. Never happened before and scared the crap out of me.

    I look down for that quick second taking my eyes off where they should have been and blammo! Hit a bump, went airborne, and over the front... smack and both elbows broken.

    My right took the majority of the force. The left, unfortunately, was also jacked up. My right was broken in a couple places and looked like like two big pieces of a jigsaw on the xray. The left was broken with a slight step out.

    Anyway I'm now almost six months out from my surgery. I can't tell you how nice it is to be able to feed myself, drink, wash, shave, brush teeth... and well... go to the bathroom myself

    My left arm feels fairly normal. It's not back to where it was but it's darn close. My right though... it's still very stiff. I don't have much in the way of flexion or extension.

    I was wondering if anyone had similar experience and if your situation improved.

    I've read that six months is about the window for the most amount of improvement... generally speaking. So now I'm obviously concerned that I may never be able to ride again.

    I tried a couple times and I can ride, but it's fairly painful when I hit any kind of bump. I still can't do any kind of "pushup" with my right arm either.

    Just hoping someone in here will give me some good news... like they had the same situation and it improved hehe.

    Anyway thanks for any insight.

  2. #2
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    Glad to hear your recovering ok. It will take some time to heal completely(maybe a year or so). Reason I say this is because I suffered a right radial head fracture about 11 years ago(7/97) in the Cuyamaca Mountain riding trails in San Diego. The hills were so steep initially that you had to walk your bike up for the first mile or so then a slow steady climb. My brother and I got to the top and started haulin azz down the hill-me leading the crazed attack. I was sailin' down a bumpy off beaten rock stretch when I lost it, WHAM! I don't really remember alot because I think I got knocked out for a split second and regained. All I know is
    I ate it pretty hard/fast and that my right hand and forearm twisted inward because of the force. A moment later my brother came up laughing at me.
    I tried to get up to pick up my bike and thats when I knew it was broken. The next two miles downhill were hell because I could only grip lightly with alot of pain. I walked most of it and we got to the truck. Another hour to get home and 4 more hours in the ER. They shot my elbow with Marcaine and gave me Motrin.
    Diagnosis? Hairline Radial Head Fx. No cast, just a sling. I was extremely lucky to be in this good condition w/o alot of injuries. It took a few years as I recall to completely recover w/o my hand (cuniform and pisiform bones) swelling. Good luck and thanks for the story.

  3. #3
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    Its' been almost a year to the day

    I smashed my radial head last year in Moab on Memorial Day. You can seach this forum for my posts; I got a lot of feedback from folks on the boards which was great.

    I got lucky, my arm almost can fully extend, no surgery, just PT. Still a little stiff now and then. I was even able to ride Downieville in October last year, 4 1/2 months afterwards. I also can tell I favor my right arm and my shoulders and back is tweaked a bit because of it. I would say continue PT, religiously (sp?).

    My advise, good luck and keep hope in mind. I told myself I was never going to ride again but here I am. You got to do PT everyday, ice it, flex...maybe you already are, its a process.

  4. #4
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    Imatk,

    I am not an orthopedist but I am an ER doc so might be able to help you out bit. Obviously since you had surgery on your elbow that you had plates or screws or both placed into your elbow/arm. Inherently this type of injury is much more severe than fractures that do not need surgical intervention and thus a longer recovery period.

    The first thing to do is truly dedicate yourself to Physical Therapy. Any joint when immobilized for a prolonged period of time loses range of motion and throw in some metal and scar tissue and it only gets worse. Sometimes scar tissue builds up so bad (especially in shoulders after surgery) that the orthopedic surgeon will sometime take the person to the OR months after the surgery...put them under anethesia and then just crank the shoulder in all directions...and you hear the scar tissue popping. Have not seen this with elbows though as PT is usually effective enough to regain range of motion. However if it does not return you to normal or near normal, then talk to your surgeon. It is possible that the fracture was so bad that you will get back only a certain % of your normal range. Other possibilities are that after the bones are healed...sometimes having the plates and screws removed will add more flexibility.

    Hopefully things will continue to get better...and in an injury such as yours I would give it at least a year before I made any real conclusions as to what you will recover. Good luck to you and get working on that arm

  5. #5
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    This thread scares me. I fractured my radial head on 4/18 and had surgery on 5/2 with plates and crews inserted. I'm walking around with a hinged brace right now locked at 90 degrees. I'm supposed to go back in August and have the hardware removed.

    Saving grace so far has been the advice provided by my Physical Therapist. Also, I'm lucky enough to have access to a hot tub which really gets the muscles relaxed and is allowing me a surprising amount of extension. Rotation of the wrist is going much slower.

    I say stick with the PT and you might also try massage therapy. My muscles get really tight after being in the brace all day and it takes a heat source and 10 to15 minutes of massage to get thing moving. I ice it down after the exercises are done.

    Good luck man. I'm rooting for you.

  6. #6
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    3 Weeks ago, radial head fracture, small chip. Put me in a splint for 2 weeks, took it off last Tuesday. Arm is still stiff, getting about 15 degrees of movement. They told me to keep stretching it.

    No mention of any PT. Damn Kaiser. I will be calling them on Monday.

    What kind of PT should I be doing to get this stiff elbow moving again?

  7. #7
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    I've got Kaiser as well and they insisted on PT

    Quote Originally Posted by megafrenzy
    3 Weeks ago, radial head fracture, small chip. Put me in a splint for 2 weeks, took it off last Tuesday. Arm is still stiff, getting about 15 degrees of movement. They told me to keep stretching it.

    No mention of any PT. Damn Kaiser. I will be calling them on Monday.

    What kind of PT should I be doing to get this stiff elbow moving again?
    In fact, they told me to get an appointment before I left the facility the day I got my cast taken off (broken wrist). I don't know if your coverage is the same as mine but you need to call as soon as possible and get on it.
    A blind man searches in a dark room for a black hat that isn't there. Dashiell Hammett

  8. #8
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    insist on PT

    Megafrenzy

    Even after surgery, screws ands a plate Kaiser didn't initially recommend PT for me. I went around the orthopedic surgeons PA (cute, but dumb) and went to my primary care Dr and had him prescribe the PT. You have to be a smart consumer with Kaiser or you will get screwed.

  9. #9
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    pt

    if you can't get a formal referral to PT, you can do a lot on your own. Depends on what you had done - removal of bone fragment, fixed with screws, radial head replacement, any ligaments repaired? - but for a while the only thing to worry about is getting range of motion. This involves gentle flexion and extension, as well as supination/pronation of the forearm. Elbows get notoriously stiff and this is hard to ever get back. You need more range in mountain biking than most other activities. Again, your pace and when you can really start strenthening depends on what you had done.

  10. #10
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    Radial head

    Broke my self up in a crash in early May breaking my right radial and my left radial head.

    Had surgery for both (Group Health) and was very lucky that I was able to have only a half cast on the right so that I was able to take care of my personal needs.

    The radial fracture on the right was repaired with a plate and 6 screws and I had to go back for a second surgery to replace bent hardware.

    The left radial head required 3 screws to repair. So far I am getting most of my flexion back, but have a lot of work to do on extension. So far just doing stretching 3 times a day with a 16oz hammer held at the end for 3 to 4 minutes at a time. Also doing some light swimming at the pool.

    PT is my next step once healing of the injury is better and it will be my priority to working at it until I get it right.

    Good luck on your recovery

  11. #11
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    I'm almost three months out from fracturing my left radial head. I just had surgery again on 7/7to remove the plates and screws. I feel much better with the metal out but there is still a ways to go.

    Doc indicated that is unlikely the arm will ever go straight again but I do hope to be able to ride before too long. I've been working on this build to keep me occupied in the meantime...


  12. #12
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    Hi

    I was wondering what anybody's progress with a Radial Head Fracture was.

    I just got one and would really appreciate it to see others experience.

    It happened last Sunday for me. They dropped me in a small cast for 3 days and then that was off and since then I've been asked to increase movement. Like the first poster I couldn't get a full flex but it is slowly coming. Strength is slowly coming too. I am thinking by the first week of September I should get a lot of recovery back but with some extra pushing and pulling to increase mobility.

  13. #13
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    Oh and thanks for the replies

  14. #14
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    Flugu

    I fractured my radial head in April 2008. I had two surgeries, one to screw it back together and one to remove the hardware. It is an injury that takes a while to come back from. I?o was about an inch away from full radial head replacement.

    You will hear this over and over but it is absolutely critical, get into Physical Therapy and stick with it. My health care provider (Kaiser at the time) tried to tell me PT was unnecessary. I knew better and had my primary care physician order up the PT.

    I have to really pay attention to my arm. If I slack off the exercise my injured arm will become noticeably smaller than my uninjured arm in a matter of weeks.

    Good news is I'm back on the bike and with minor exception, I'm doing everything now I was doing before the injury. Let me know if there is more info I can provide.

    JB

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by 187
    Flugu

    I fractured my radial head in April 2008. I had two surgeries, one to screw it back together and one to remove the hardware. It is an injury that takes a while to come back from. I?o was about an inch away from full radial head replacement.

    You will hear this over and over but it is absolutely critical, get into Physical Therapy and stick with it. My health care provider (Kaiser at the time) tried to tell me PT was unnecessary. I knew better and had my primary care physician order up the PT.

    I have to really pay attention to my arm. If I slack off the exercise my injured arm will become noticeably smaller than my uninjured arm in a matter of weeks.

    Good news is I'm back on the bike and with minor exception, I'm doing everything now I was doing before the injury. Let me know if there is more info I can provide.

    JB

    Thanks for this. I really appreciate it.

    I'm not at the stage of displacement or even surgery. Just a fracture in the head as of yet.

    I have a lot of mobility yet and I am doing some strength exercises myself. I am noticing a difference but I do want to contact the Doctor to make sure where I stand.

    Cheers again.

  16. #16
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    Follow up to Radial Head Fracture

    I posted last summer about my Radial Head Fracture and I am happy to say that my recovery has been positive.

    Had surgery to repair with 4 screws holding the joint together.

    I still do not have complete full extention of the arm but I think I am about 90%

    I have been lifting weights and streching the arm before and after to gain mobilty. I no longer have any pain and I will continue to keep working at it.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by miamimitch
    I posted last summer about my Radial Head Fracture and I am happy to say that my recovery has been positive.

    Had surgery to repair with 4 screws holding the joint together.

    I still do not have complete full extention of the arm but I think I am about 90%

    I have been lifting weights and streching the arm before and after to gain mobilty. I no longer have any pain and I will continue to keep working at it.
    Hi Mitch

    Is it possible you could tell me when you had your fracture, when you had surgery etc too so I could compare timelines? I also want to get back to lifting weights too and want to ascertain a feasible time for me.

    Also, are you lifting the same level of weights you were prior? Or what kind of weights are you able to lift on a week on week basis?

    Thanks for the reply Mitch. It's really appreciated. I've heard a lot of ambiguous things about the injury and really want to get a good hold on it to improve my recovery.

  18. #18
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    My injury was in May of 2008 and after surgery to repair the elbow it was in a non movable brace for several weeks. After two weeks I was moving it gently but I had very little range with it.

    After about a month of slow stretching with a hammer for weight I was able to gain more range and add more weight.

    After that I started swimming and returned to the gym and lifted light weights with high reps to regain strength.

    My strength is back to normal on both arms injured but the left with the radial fracture is still limited in extension a little and will tighten up if I do not stretch daily

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by miamimitch
    My injury was in May of 2008 and after surgery to repair the elbow it was in a non movable brace for several weeks. After two weeks I was moving it gently but I had very little range with it.

    After about a month of slow stretching with a hammer for weight I was able to gain more range and add more weight.

    After that I started swimming and returned to the gym and lifted light weights with high reps to regain strength.

    My strength is back to normal on both arms injured but the left with the radial fracture is still limited in extension a little and will tighten up if I do not stretch daily
    Thanks Mitch

    Mine isn't as bad as yours but the outcome appears to be similar for most RHF's in that mobility is the key concern after healing.

    I was reading up on it today and found some work on Bone Mass Density and weights. I am trying to move it as much as I can at the minute. There is some pain but mobility seems to keep it fresh and able.

    It hasn't been long for me but I'm going to keep on with moving, nutrition and a little bit of weights too.

    Thanks again.

  20. #20
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    Make sure you go slow and light at first to make sure you do not injure yourself again.

    Good luck on your recovery

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by miamimitch
    Make sure you go slow and light at first to make sure you do not injure yourself again.

    Good luck on your recovery
    Thanks Mitch.

    Well at present it is slow and steady but I can't push it anyway. The response is always slow, the speed is slow and steady too. There are also movements which I can't attempt either so... there you go.

    There is a slight increase in strength and some flexibility increased too - but the fragility is still evident when I move it or intend on moving it some more.

    Cheers again. I'll let you know if things change.

  22. #22
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    4 mos and counting

    Still working on my elbow after 4 mos. I do my own PT at least twice per day and I have it to about 90% movement and have started riding again. But it continues to ache constantly. The elbow seems to be a long road on the recovery.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Griffin_NC
    Still working on my elbow after 4 mos. I do my own PT at least twice per day and I have it to about 90% movement and have started riding again. But it continues to ache constantly. The elbow seems to be a long road on the recovery.
    Hi Griffin

    Could you give a little more information regarding what kind of fracture you had please?

    I'm about 70% movement, I'd say. Maybe I'm being optimistic. OK, 60% but I'm working at it and today I am a little more optimistic.

    I'm trying to use it as much as is possible of light work and doing what exercises I've been told to do.

    Thanks for replying mate and all the best.

  24. #24
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    Fractures

    I was fortunate and didn't do a full displacement of the radial head. There were two 1/2" cracks on each side of it. They didn't put my arm into a cast and started me on light PT about 3 days after the accident. They also gave me a shot in the elbow to reduce the swelling quickly. I was at about 80% movement after the first 30 days. Since then it's been very slow getting the rest of the movement back. It does seem like a rollar coaster some days though. I'm betting about 6 months to full recovery at the moment.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Griffin_NC
    I was fortunate and didn't do a full displacement of the radial head. There were two 1/2" cracks on each side of it. They didn't put my arm into a cast and started me on light PT about 3 days after the accident. They also gave me a shot in the elbow to reduce the swelling quickly. I was at about 80% movement after the first 30 days. Since then it's been very slow getting the rest of the movement back. It does seem like a rollar coaster some days though. I'm betting about 6 months to full recovery at the moment.
    Thanks Griffin

    What you're saying is quite reassuring. I am going to be into Physio myself soon but in the mean time I am doing some movement and getting something back but I've also get pain too. I guess this is partly down to me pushing it since I want more movement back...

    Cheers again. Finding out more about it gives some indication as to the nature of the injury and what type of healing and recovery is occurring.

    Regards

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