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Matt Sarad

climber
Topic Author's Original Post - Jul 17, 2013 - 02:09pm PT
Just as I was getting back in the saddle by taking a friend eager to learn the ropes, I had a serious bike accident. While I was in the hospital, she texted me about our planned trip to Dome Rock for her to finally get on the Tree Route and climb it all the way after a top rope session where we had her place gear the first time on the first pitch. Similar experiences were undertaken at the Kern Slabs and roadside Crags in the Canyon outside of Bakersfield.

After breaking my collarbone in two places, some rotator cuff agitation, and numerous broken ribs and other bones I am getting physical therapy that focuses on the right shoulder. I figure I will be back to some semblance of reconditioning by next Spring, a year after the accident. I went from walking a block to 1.5 miles, but haven't been on a bike since the accident in March due to dizziness, vertigo, and a fear of falling again. I don't want to break ribs, bones, or my skull again.

I know that others here have had serious falls and surgery. What can I expect at 57 years old and getting back confidence and strength?

Thanks,

Matt



labrat

Trad climber
Auburn, CA
Jul 17, 2013 - 02:40pm PT
Ouch! It will get better. I messed up some ribs earlier (badly bruised or cracked) early in the year and can still feel twinges nearly 3 months later. It happened so fast and I was walking. I imagine off a bike it was really bad :-(

Good thoughts going your way.
Erik

(edit) I'm 46 btw
Seamstress

Trad climber
Yacolt, WA
Jul 17, 2013 - 02:48pm PT
Your recovery is highly dependent on your attitude and work ethic. People age when they fail to do what is necessary to recover.

You will heal more slowly than previous decades. However, you can jump back into climbing again. You may want to start with low angle routes that don't tax that shoulder too much initially.

If you can afford physical therapy - do it. Regular massage will help you regain range of motion, too.

Remember you pay medical professionals for their advice and help to return to the healthiest state possible. Be conservative at first, then push them. If climbing and biking are your goals, you must make that clear. Otherwise, they will guide you to desk jockey shape. Many will initially underpromise what you may accomplish.

The babyboomers are redefining expectations for our bodies at 50 and 60.

Good luck and don't settle for couch potato unless that is what you aspire to do.

I haven't had much trauma to my upper body. My experience is all with legs/knees/feet.
locker

Social climber
Some Rehab in Bolivia
Jul 17, 2013 - 02:49pm PT

You can expect good days and bad days...

Hard days and easier days...

Most of all you can expect to have a BLAST when back to climbing...

Patrick Sawyer

climber
Originally California now Ireland
Jul 17, 2013 - 02:55pm PT
Matt, I am also 57, and I have had enough injuries and ER time over the years (too much). (My mom always said I was an accident waiting to happen.)

All I can say is, concentrate on healing, take things slowly (and I'd say this to a twentysomething as well) never rush back from an injury, and your's sounds serious enough.

I think you will know when to push your body a bit further. But please don't rush back, take it easy. Let your body speak, not your mind/emotions. You may be itching to get out on the rock, bike, whatever. But follow your med professionals advice and take it slowly.

Listen to your body, it will tell you when to start ramping up. I know from experience.
steveA

Trad climber
Wolfeboro, NH
Jul 17, 2013 - 03:20pm PT
Matt,

I'm sure you will agree that every injury is kind of unique. Coupled with that fact, each individual copes with various injuries in their own way, and some heel quicker than others. Dealing with pain is perhaps the most challenging aspect of all sports related injuries.

I can only tell you that I'm 67, and in the last 15 years, I've broken both ankles, one tibia, serious breaks to one foot, and a few other accidents.

Each time I've bounced back pretty well, but it all takes it's toll. I would rather live that way, than go the way of a coach potato; like many of my close relatives.

Your desire to climb will make all the difference in your healing up.
donini

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Jul 17, 2013 - 06:20pm PT
Welcome back....give it hell!
rSin

Trad climber
calif
Jul 17, 2013 - 06:44pm PT
whatever you do

dont for a second notice that all the gear today
is less substantial looking that what we used used to use to tie gear onto our packs 30 years ago...

Andy Fielding

Trad climber
UK
Jul 17, 2013 - 06:58pm PT
Matt

In October 2011 when I was 49 I broke my left ankle one week before a planned climbing trip to France. I was gutted to say the least. The plaster came off in December and I under went physio which really helped and encouraged me to get back climbing. I was scared that when I first placed my foot in a crack and twisted that my ankle would just snap. In fact the physiotherapist told me to stop being a whimp and get out and go climbing. During the recovery time I also booked a trip to climb in Spain the following April. That really gave me the incentive to train and to heal rather than vegetate. So in the April I had a week in Spain, then in May I found myself in the Valley for the first time and did a bunch of classics. In July I had another trip to Spain and October saw me in France. So from the depths of despair I ended up having the best climbing trips of my life. An injury isn't necessarily the sign to stop it's just a punctuation mark to pause, take stock and move onwards. Here's wishing you all the best and a speedy recovery from this side of the Pond.

Andy

phylp

Trad climber
Millbrae, CA
Jul 17, 2013 - 09:50pm PT
I don't want to break ribs, bones, or my skull again.

Well, none of us ever want to, do we. But you start off thinking you're invincible and then time and experience takes it's toll.

Couple of practical things-

The fitter you are the more confident you'll feel, so find a partner that you can follow for a while til you get your fitness back. The fitter I am, the better my leading head.

Sport climbing can be a lot of fun and get you out there. A stick-clip goes a long way towards improving the safety margin.

Lead things well below your fitness level while you're getting your head, fitness and psyche back. When the climbing is beautiful, the grade doesn't matter. you still get those endorphins.

Welcome back Matt!




Dave Kos

Social climber
Temecula
Jul 17, 2013 - 10:06pm PT
Learn not to care about numbers. At least the ones to the right of the decimal point.
Reilly

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
Jul 17, 2013 - 10:19pm PT
I hate to point out the obvious but you might not want to go climbing if
you have vertigo. ;-) Other than that you'll know when you're ready.
Matt Sarad

climber
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 18, 2013 - 06:05am PT
Thanks for advice and encouragement. The couch potato period is ending down. The first month home from the hospital the couch was the only pain free spot I had. Physical Therapy has been a boon and bear at the same time. The PT gave me good exercises to help the vertigo decrease. I figure I will be in the mountains soon to do some easy trail walking.

The shoulder hurts all night and every morning, but my pinch grip is improving in both hands.

The collapsed lung compromised my uphill abilities, but taking it slowly with rests is helping.

I will be out the door for a walk shortly.

Matt
guyman

Social climber
Moorpark, CA.
Jul 18, 2013 - 11:51am PT
Getting old is hell ... (me 60) you just need to listen to your bod and what it's telling you. And like Locker pointed out, some days are better than others.

Lots of really nice stuff to climb up around Kern Slabs. I don't know when you last climbed, but tons of new stuff there and along the Sherman Pass road on both sides of the pass.

PM me if you wish to go climbing

JEleazarian

Trad climber
Fresno CA
Jul 18, 2013 - 01:22pm PT
Your recovery is highly dependent on your attitude and work ethic. People age when they fail to do what is necessary to recover.

I think this is, perhaps, the best advice. I severed my Achilles tendon in a bouldering fall at the climbing gym about 18 months ago, and didn't get medical clearance to climb again until 9 months after the fall. I'm still not in adequate cardiovascular condition to do the climbs I intended this year, but even at age 62, I'm getting more fit, and I don't think in the end I'll have lost all that much.

As to the mental aspect, I've taken some pretty nasty falls over the years, and it usually took time to recover my confidence, but it always seems to come back. Just take it slowly and follow Dave Kos's advice -- don't worry about the rating. Just climb something comfortable until you get the feel back.

If you're looking for an old climber recovering from injury to climb with, let me know.

John

mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
Jul 18, 2013 - 02:15pm PT
Please make that TWO of us, as I am trying hard to find some aged climbers just like yourself.

John, I've been meaning to contact you. Can we two get together and discuss the possibility of such a partnership? I've never climbed Toll House and would love to go there with an experienced, knowledgeable partner so we can "get on with the climbing" and not have any BS about which routes are best for us.

I can go at any time or any day. And I could go at any time, so the sooner the better. :-)

PM me, please. I'll wait for a reply. Thanks.

Matt, heed the advice of Phylpy. It's very sound.

Berg heil ("mountain healing")!!!!
Dave Kos

Social climber
Temecula
Jul 18, 2013 - 02:19pm PT
A stick-clip goes a long way towards improving the safety margin.

Stick-clips are for cowards.

I know, because I have often used one.
rgold

Trad climber
Poughkeepsie, NY
Jul 18, 2013 - 03:08pm PT
I had surgery to replace a blown ACL when I was 68. It is now 17 months later. I've recovered perhaps 90% of my leg strength. Whatever it is, I don't notice it climbing at all.

I did nothing but rehab exercises for about seven months and then started climbing outdoors. I started leading immediately, on relatively easy things (5.5--5.7), because I didn't want to build up a mental block about that. When I follow climbs, I tend to think I'd have more trouble leading them then when I actually do lead them, so following doesn't help my mental state at all, and meanwhile your protection skills atrophy and you have to grab three pieces before you can get one placement.

From a climbing perspective, the biggest deficit I suffered is not related to the surgery at all, but is rather a decrease in hand endurance that has been extremely hard to reverse. This is perhaps a feature of age (and the amount of time I can reasonably devote to training), and I'm going to have to live with the results, but I'm still managing to get better, even if the pace is beyond glacial. In any case, it is hard to know whether the endurance decline is related to the seven month layoff or just the vicissitudes of approaching seventy.

I'd say work hard at rehab, but train smart and don't set yourself back. Get a bunch of climbs that are easy for you under your belt and don't think about pushing things for a good long while.
Matt Sarad

climber
Topic Author's Reply - Oct 5, 2013 - 08:38am PT
Physical therapy is done. A cortisone shot in the right shoulder eased the pain substantially. I have had two encounters on a backyard wall I used to frequent. Starting off with stretching and warming up, I am building grip strength and endurance thanks to the 15 PT sessions. Pull ups using bungies to lessen my weight resulted in four! I am wearing my bike helmet in case I
grease off. With cooler October weather, it's time to start hiking trails at the mouth of the Kern Canyon.

It's starting to look good.
Magic Ed

Trad climber
Nuevo Leon, Mexico
Oct 5, 2013 - 09:54am PT
I was 58 when I broke my collarbone, shoulder blade, 3 ribs, punctured lung, pulled every muscle on the right side of my body, smashed my right hand (my right thumb is now 1/4 inch shorter than the left). For 2 months I could do nothing but sit on the couch--it hurt too much to lay down.

No climbing for almost a year but after about 8 months I found that belaying others and pulling their ropes etc. was good therapy. Today, at 64, that broken shoulder is stronger than my left shoulder but like rgold, my overall endurance has never been regained.

Just go slow and savor every moment of your life.
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