Saturday, February 22, 2014

Recovering from a Jones Fracture

Day 0
On Thursday, October 10th, I was at the Pikes Peak Athletics Conference (PPAC) League Meet, doing what I always do during a big meet: run around and scream at kids to run faster.  Cutting across an overgrown field with the head coach, I found myself high-stepping into or onto something.  You'd think I would know what it was, but truthfully, I was so distracted by how it felt that I didn't even think about it until I had limped off a good ten steps or so.  I didn't hear a snap or anything - I just felt like I had jammed my foot up into my ankle and now sharp bolts of pain were letting me know I wasn't about to jog this one off.

I got taken to Urgent Care, where an X-ray confirmed what I had feared - that I had broken a bone in my foot.  My particular break was a complete fracture of the fifth metatarsal.  The location of the fracture within the fifth classified it as one of the three common types of fifth metatarsal fractures:  a Jones Fracture.  

Just a wee little thing...betchya can't even see it.

That night, while hopped up on Vicodin (I hate the feeling!) I did some research to see what I could learn.  I can't say the findings were encouraging.  This prognosis is sobering to say the least:  

If a Jones fracture fails to unite (malunion or non union), which is a common problem with these fractures, it can become a chronic condition. If this is the case, podiatrists will likely recommend that the patient spend more time in a cast, up to twenty weeks.
For several reasons, a Jones fracture often does not heal. The diaphyseal bone, where the fracture occurs, is an area of poor blood supply. In medical terms, it is a watershed area between two blood supplies. This makes healing difficult. In addition, there are various tendons, including the peroneus brevis and fibularis tertius, and two small muscles attached to the bone. These may pull the fracture apart and prevent healing.

Day 4
On Monday, October 14th, I had a consultation with an orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Simpson.  We scheduled surgery for the following Thursday, October 24th.  The swelling in my foot was still pretty impressive, and it had to cool down a bit.  The surgical process for my type of Jones fracture is simple enough.  Take a screw and drill it through both parts of the bone, parallel to the shaft of the bone.  Ouch.

My temporary splint got thrown in the trash, and I was given a bionic boot, with its six-velcro-strap beauty.

I took a half-day off the previous Friday, but now I was back to work, in modified form.  Being immobile while teaching a bunch of eleven and twelve year olds isn't the easiest job out there.  I spent a lot of time lying on the couch at home, as well.  Cale and Melissa were both heroes and put up with my constant requests during those first few days.

Day 14
My mom dropped me off at the Orthopedic Surgeon's office late in the morning.  The staff admitted me, gave me some gas, and next thing I know it's over.  Surgery went smoothly.  By now, I had started to feel a little better every day.  Of course, the surgery put me back a bit recovery-wise, and I got to enjoy Round 2 of feeling beaten up.  Melissa brought me home, and the next few days again were rough.  

Day 40
At my monthly meeting with the orthopod, I was given permission to bear weight as tolerated, as long as I was in the boot.  In other words, I could wean myself from crutches.  

Days 43-50

Maui!  I never, and I mean NEVER, seem to go on vacation just for vacation's sake.  Melissa and I went with our friends, who had in their possession for one week a beautiful shoreline residence on Maui's northwestern edge.
If you're gonna sit around and do nothing, this seems like a pretty good way to do it.

I approve of the view
And the recovery drink of choice.
The highlight of the trip may have been getting to swim aside tons of sea turtles.  The ocean swimming also represented my first semblance of exercise in nearly two months.

Day 69
Another milestone!  By now, I had been itching to try putting some weight on my left foot but had managed to resist the temptation.  On my next orthopod visit, I got to lose the boot and begin PT sessions.  I quickly called up my friend Simon and scheduled a visit with him for the next Monday.

I really struggled those first few days without the boot.  My foot had barely any stamina before it started throbbing from all the joint movement that hadn't occurred for months.

Day 100
My first taste of meaningful outdoor activity, I soft-pedaled for a bit short of an hour outside on the west side of town.  Just in time, too, as I had been adding pounds at a fairly alarming rate, going from a pre-break 142 to a high on this day of 162.

Day 130
Just this week, I began "briskly walking" - I can't help but think of mallwalking when I say that.  I kept trying to tell myself that this is no different than if you were in shape to walk the 80th mile in an ultra.  Good luck with that.

I'm probably still a week or two from taking my first running steps.  I'm able to do some real mountain biking.  It's been a while; I enjoy coming back to it.  I'll probably continue to ride more than I have in past years once I'm healthier.

It's been almost 5 months since I've run.  At no other point in my life since I began running have I been away from it for this long.  It's time - I'm excited to be putting this thing behind me and be moving again!


  1. You have to do a race ASAP so I can sneak in a cheap win!

  2. Dang, that is serious. Does that screw get removed after the bone has fused? If it stays, doesn't it decrease your range of motion and continue to be uncomfortable/painful?

    Also, were there any signs ahead of time that this may be coming? When I had a stress fracture of my 5th metatarsal, I had pain and discomfort for nearly 2 months and was seeking treatment thinking that it was a muscle or tendon issue, as it did not show up on x-rays. Then one day, while easily hiking at 13k on Grays, it snapped and was incredibly painful. Scary to think this could just happen out of the blue with no warning, like on the far side of the Grand Canyon for instance..

    Anyways, sorry to hear how hard this has been, but glad to hear you are on the mend. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Keeping you in my thoughts, Sean. I know this has been a tough process. Keep battling and keep the faith, bro. You're showing a lot of character.


  4. Thanks guys. Appreciate the support.

    JV - no, the screw *should* be a permanent part of me. As you mention, there is a risk of decreased range of motion and discomfort.

    There was one sign of this happening. In June, I was running down Engineer Mountain when I kind of "stubbed" my foot, rolled my ankle, or did something that didn't feel too good. It was a jamming type of movement - imagine your toes kind of jamming up toward your shin a bit. Nothing crazy or so I thought. I limped for about a minute, walked for another minute, and then jogged the remainder of the trail back to my car. I was out running the next day and never thought twice about it, and it didn't give me any trouble until October. When the orthopod looked at it in October, he said there was evidence of a prior stress fracture or fracture in the area. So I guess I really had no way of knowing.

    I share your fear that this could have (or still could) happen anywhere at any time. At a cross country meet is a bit safer than 12 miles from a trailhead.

  5. Oh my.....I feel like I am reading all about myself in your story. I suffered a Jones fracture on a Thursday, Ortho appt the following monday, and had surgery yesterday. I have a family vacation planned to St. Maarten in 3 weeeks, so I too will be sitting by the pool and the beautiful Caribbean sea with my big cumbersome boot. Did it really take over 100 days to fully heal? Oh my......not really what I wanted to read. (I am 4'11", and was standing on a chair to turn off a ceiling fan. Fell off the chair, and when I hit the floor, that is when I fractured my foot.)
    Thank you for sharing your story. I can totally relate!

  6. I had surgery for Jones fracture in January and was in boot non wt bearing for 8 weeks. X-ray yesterday shows really no bone healing and Im afraid I have a non-union or pseudoarthrosis. I am desperate to run again ( 9 min miles but I call it running) And NO I do not want to SWIM. Any thoughts anyone?

  7. I can relate to this as well. I too had a Jones Fracture occur in late May from stepping off of a curb wrong and rolling my right foot. My orthopod wanted to try to go the non-surgical route and I was in an aircast/Boot for 10 weeks non-weight bearing. Then I was walking on it for a few weeks with the aid of a crutch, only to be told at the 12 week follow up that the bones were non-union and could only be fixed by surgery( screw and bone graft from heel). Had the surgery September 8th, and was in the aircast/boot non-weight bearing for 6 weeks. Just started physical therapy 2 weeks ago and it has been a slow road to recovery. Very hard to bear weight out of the boot and am being told it will be another 4-6 weeks until I can walk on it without boot or crutch. What makes it equally difficult is because it was my right foot, I can't drive until it's fully healed. I feel bad for anyone who has to go through this experience. It has been very frustrating for me, being a very active person, who has become a couch potato. Thank you for sharing your story.