Getting Back to Running After a Broken Leg

Updated on November 20, 2016
CyclingFitness profile image

Liam Hallam is a sports science graduate. A keen cyclist, runner, and obstacle racer, he ran his first ultra-marathon in 2016.

A Long Recovery

An x-ray of my leg in early January 2015. A fractured tibia and fibula meant two pins and an open reduction internal fixation (ORIF) surgery.
An x-ray of my leg in early January 2015. A fractured tibia and fibula meant two pins and an open reduction internal fixation (ORIF) surgery. | Source

Getting Back to Fitness After a Broken Leg

Accidents happen, and sadly many of us will suffer a broken bone at some point in our lifetime. I am a runner and a cyclist, and I know that many of us who are avid athletes feel that we're indestructible. However, a broken bone can quickly convince us otherwise.

Sadly, returning to running after a broken leg is a medium- to long-term process that should never be rushed. Most of us don't earn a living as an athlete, but our passion for physical activities are a huge part of our lives.

A key aspect of the recovery process is not to push yourself too hard or too soon in the quest to get back to where you were before the injury. Speaking from personal experience, a broken leg will really test your patience and perseverance. Even when you regain your ability to walk, pain is a sign that you may be pushing yourself too far. You may need to back off to allow recovery to continue.

Recovery from a broken leg should be more about your long-term health than about being able to return quickly to running or cycling.

If you have to have the area pinned and/or plated, you may require surgery called an open reduction internal fixation (ORIF) to fix the fracture. Whether or not surgery is needed, you will most likely have to wear a cast on your leg for quite some time to allow your leg to heal properly.

How Long Do You Expect to be Out of Action

If you're reading having broken your leg or ankle- How long do you expect before you start running again?

See results

Consult Your Doctor

Before starting any exercise, consult your doctor or physician to determine whether it is safe. Make sure you discuss all of your training plans. Your doctor will advise you about how to promote a safe and optimal recovery.

Getting Back into Running and Exercise After a Stress Fracture

Part of getting back into running begins when you're in the plaster cast. Stress fractures can generally take around 6-8 weeks to heal. It may feel like you're ready to run again a couple of weeks but it's vital to resist this urge as you could put your recovery period back to day 1 and have you potentially walking on crutches for much longer.

This period doesn't have to be one of inactivity as your doctor may be able to recommend suitable alternatives to help maintain your fitness. Pool work like aqua-jogging and swimming are great non-load bearing ways to maintain cardiovascular fitness and enhance strength a short period after your stress fracture.

Factors Affecting Return to Running after a Broken Leg

So exactly when can you commence running again? Whilst everyone is different there are a number of factors which will need to be considered

  • How severe your break was
  • The requirement for surgery can add additional time
  • How successful physiotherapy is
  • The level of effort you put into your rehabilitation from the break

Many runners will be able to begin running between three and four months post-break. This timeframe allows your bones to heal and for a return to your pre-injury range of motion and strength levels. At this point you can gradually start to increase volumes and intensity and you should be back to your regular running program within 6-9 months post injury if you allow your fitness to progress gradually.

Cycling is a Great Rehabilitation Activity

Consider cycling as a rehabilitation activity to help in your return to running after a broken leg
Consider cycling as a rehabilitation activity to help in your return to running after a broken leg

Running After a Broken Leg

Once you get the go-ahead from your doctor to get back into running those first few runs WILL be tough and need to be built up to. All the time you spent in plaster will have weakened your leg with a agree of muscle breakdown which will likely be the cause of some discomfort. The key is to ease into running gradually.

A good initial approach is to alternate between running and walking until you're confident to be back running full-time. Start conservatively and it will benefit you in the long term.

Getting Back Into Runnng

  • Ease back into running gradually
  • Start walking- add intervals of easy running over time
  • Use cycling and elliptical trainers for lower impact exercise
  • Alternate days- Don't run at first 2 consecutive days
  • Consider surfaces like grass and trails as alternatives to the stresses of pavement running.

Typical Problems Faced After a Broken Leg

When you're getting back into activity and your cast has come off your recovery will still be ongoing and it's likely you will still experience some of the below symptoms which may require further addressing as part of your recovery process

  • Swelling at the point of break
  • Pain in the leg whilst loading or moving
  • Decreased rang of movement and motion.
  • Loss of muscle strength
  • Tightness from scar tissue
  • Reduced balance
  • Issues with proprioception

Soft Surfaces Take Away the Stress of the Pavement

Stick to cross country running initially as it will reduce the stresses and strains of pounding the pavement in your return from a leg fracture
Stick to cross country running initially as it will reduce the stresses and strains of pounding the pavement in your return from a leg fracture

Calcium Build-Up After a Bone Fracture

As a stress fracture heals, calcium can deposit at the point of the fracture with the purpose of bone protection. This deposit can place pressure upon other tissues and lead to strange sensations. This can include feelings or numbness or a tingling sensation whilst running and these sensations can last for several months afterwards.

In many cases these sensations should not stop your running, although if you do experience consistent pain at the point of fracture it's best to head back to your doctor for a consultation.

Have You Broken Your Leg?

Have you been in the wars? How did it happen and when are you hoping to get back into running? We would love to hear from you in the comments below.

Questions & Answers

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      • profile image

        Jean 

        4 months ago

        Car accident last summer; open fracture, 7 fractures between my tibula and fibula and shattered my ankle (surgeon estimated 50 fractures) external fixation for 10 days then internal fixation, 3 weeks in hospital, walking boot and crutches while out and walker at home. Got the okay to start weight bearing 20% and using exercise bike 6 months in and now 8 months weight bearing as tolerated down to one crutch and walking boot had one screw removed and has relieved a lot of pressure. Not sure how many I have to be honest I never asked but two plates and a rod, a handful of screws and one nail... Previous PT told me I’d never run again but I just switched PTs this week and have been told not to worry I will be okay

      • profile image

        James 

        5 months ago

        I snapped my tibia and fibula by falling off my dirt bike at 20/30 mph and it fell on my leg I didn’t have any pins or anything put in they just pulled my leg put it in place and put a plaster cast on I broke them at almost a straight angle I was in a cast for almost 18 weeks it has now been 26 weeks and I am just abouts walking normally with no limp and struggle to run even a bit

      • profile image

        Elise H 

        7 months ago

        I had a tibia spinal fracture from skiing less than 2 years ago along with a meniscus tear which were surgically repaired. While my leg has yet to get back to "normal" i have recently fell in love with running. I trained for and ran a 5k in 3 weeks time last month. It took alot of want to do it and it was def not painless but i dont plan on stopping anytime soon. I have found a patella strap works wonders when running. I am 32 years old. Dont ever quit because someone says you cant. I am a nurse and i can tell you doctors dont know for certain, its up to you. I plan on running a 10k in the spring.

      • profile image

        Annie H 

        9 months ago

        I was struck by an SUV while on a run crossing a pedestrian walkway last month. Training for my 1st marathon. I was only 2 weeks away from race day! My tibia and ankle both had clean breaks and my other leg has a meniscus tear. I’m in a boot nonweight bearing for 2 more weeks until I see my orthopedic surgeon for X-ray reevaluations. I’m taking things day by day. I’m 24 and will get back to running by the end of the year.The first 2 weeks were emotionally the hardest on me, and I won’t lie, it’s been hard as hell. If you’re reading this and you’re in a similar postition - please just know the worst is over. We have long roads ahead of us and a lifetime of obstacles to face but it will be worth the fight in the end. Get your cries in, eat lots of ice cream, mourn what you’ve lost and then pick yourself up and begin the comeback.

      • profile image

        Julie D 

        9 months ago

        My 15yr old son broke his Tibia yesterday during a XC meet. Pretty confidant he was running on a stress fracture as he had been having some occasional pain in that part of his upper shin the last week or so. He's devastated as he was/is a strong runner and big part of his team. Waiting for ortho tomorrow - assume long cast. ER docs don't think it went all the way through, but it looks pretty darn close. Trying to figure out if he'll have any shot at his track season in March (5 months or so). Hoping for a quick recovery for him. This is so hard...

      • profile image

        Taylor G 

        12 months ago

        This Christmas I broke my leg sledging and snapped the tibia clean through, I needed surgery and was expected to be on my feet within 2-3 months. However the plate was infected in my leg so they had to re operate 2 more times to clear infection in my leg and even now 7 months later I'm just finishing my course of antibiotics and beginning to walk again without the aid of a boot or crutches (without physio therapy). I just don't know if I'll be able to play football again due to being out so long, anyone here have any ideas? I'm aged 16 if that helps and have been healthy up until this accident

      • profile image

        Wyatt H. 

        12 months ago

        I am a runner and I was getting really good at running and then one day while I was at church my friend brought his motorcycle that he practically built, so decided I wanted to ride and I ended up hitting a brick fence and twisting my leg and snapped my tibia, I had a cast for 2 months and a boot for a month and I am about to start physical therapy, hope I get to start running again soon!

      • profile image

        Tyler Cooper 

        13 months ago

        I broke my leg 2 weeks before my 20th birthday. I had three open fractures in my leg, my femur, and fib/tib and broke my collarbone. I had a titaniun rod put in my femur and one put into my tibia, with 3 screws in each rod. I race motocross I thought my days of riding were over. I was in a splint for 2 weeks, and was put into a air boot when I went in for getting stitches tooken out. I was on crutches for a total of about 11 weeks, went threw 2 months of physical therapy 2 times a week. Doctor said it's very unusual for all three bones of the leg to break at one time. Every time I went for a checkup I asked when I could ride again, and it was like no body wanted too tell me a answer, or they didn't want too tell me I couldn't. I remounted my bike 5 months later. You never know how much your leg played a role in your daily activities until it's taken away from you. And anybody that is going threw what I did, don't GIVE up, be a inspiration, make a come back. Everything heals, go hard everyday. I had a injury that most would have sold that bike and not looked at another one. I hope this post brings a smile too someone laying in bed, with a broke leg. Worst part is over if your reading this.

        T.B.C

      • profile image

        Jerri 

        18 months ago

        I broke my leg when I was 21. I was in a bad motorcycle accident and had an open compound fracture of my tibia and fibula. It required external fixation, then an ORIF. I had compartment syndrome as well. Subsequently I had delayed union that required another ORIF with a larger diameter rod. On top of that my meniscus and ACL is severely damaged. I spent about 8 months in therapy. I sporadically tried getting back to my habit of going to the gym, but the pain can get pretty bad. It's been 4 years since my accident. I have only been able to run a half mile since. Pretty disheartening since I'm young and all I want to do is be healthy and active. Even working a long day takes a toll on my leg.

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, healdove.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://healdove.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)