Broken hand after crash

Dec 5, 2004
by Radek Burkat  
It was the day after the Calgary World Cup at COP and a few of us decided to see if the times posted by David Vazquez, the winner, and the rest of the Pros were really that fast. I had showed up with my trusty V10 and had in mind a few easy runs and jumps. Looking in my truck it turned out that the only gear that I had with me was a XC helmet. No gloves, armor, or full face meant that I would take it easy today, riding some of the stunts I was 100% sure I could make and keeping the speed down to minimize carnage in an accident. The riding was fantastic and three runs later I was at the bottom of the hill ready to call it a day.

Now everyone knows the phrase “last run of the day” should ONLY be uttered in the past tense. You never say at the top of the mountain “this is my last run of the day” but more appropriately, only once you are safe at the bottom, you can say “that WAS my last run of the day” as you walk your bike to the parking lot. Now if that does not make sense to you, then you have not been riding bikes long enough. Some say this is due to the mountain hearing you and not wanting you to leave, causes an unseen root to grow or a new rock to appear on the trail. The result is usually a pile of bike and body. More likely, it is the rider’s unconscious decision of having already finished riding, and no longer paying as much attention to the decent. This in conjunction with fatigued arms and a vision of cold pops awaiting at the bottom, throw you of your game and result in the pain that follows.

Now I am well aware of this etiquette and have been reminded many times before, but as we stood at the bottom of the mountain someone mentioned that we should “go up for a last run of the day”. I did not have a clear definition on this one. We were not at the top, we were safe at the bottom, so going up for a last run might be ok.

With the finish line in sight, in the last treed area, I decided to open things up a little. I saw the pros ride that section the day before and I was ready to give David Vazquez a run for his money. I have ridden that section on the downhill at least a hundred times and I swear that tree branch was not there before. It turns out that the mountain heard me, and as I ripped through a corner, my head clipped a branch, pushing me off balance and I went for a tumble in a rock garden. I got up and to my surprise, I was in one piece. Or so I thought. No ankle injury, no knee problems….only a little scratch on the pinky finger from breaking the fall in the rocks. That’s what you get for forgetting your gloves.
Jump back on the bike, kick the mud off the pedals, grab the bars and we’re good. Wait. That does not feel right. The left hand feels strange and hurts while grasping the bars. Probably a sprain from twisting the pinky in the fall. At the bottom, a couple of the riders just happen to be medics so a quick poke and prod and the diagnosis is to have it x-rayed. Surly this can’t be broken. The season has just started!
After a lot of bitching and whining I am convinced to go have this looked at. A few hours in the waiting room, and at 1:35 AM I finally got a spot in between the drunks and cowboy brawlers at the downtown Calgary clinic. Add that one to the list, because apparently “lets go up for a last run of the day” results in a broken hand. Typically these kind of boxers breaks are just cast, but mine was at an angle and required surgery, setting and pins. This is when you say “You have GOT to be kidding me”. Such a dumb fall, on an easy part of a trail, surgery, pins, no riding for 2 months. It’s time for denial and anger, the post traumatic stages of the last run of the day syndrome.

"Welcome to reality. The surgery tomorrow morning, here is you slip, be there" said the nurse. I’ve had my ankle broken, knees done, and a few other upgrades so I know what to expect here. I never look forward to being opened up, pined up, stiched up, and wake up in the shivers of anesethia, but I guess here we go again.
The next morning I arrived at Rocky View Hospital where Dr Beveridge was my man. A short chit chat later I find out that his son is an avid Pinkbiker, but best of all, the Doc is not putting me to sleep or cutting me open. I am a big technology buff and as I had my first set of Xrays done at this Hospital I was really impressed with the new technology. No more film plates, waiting to develop the xray, walking the hallways with your envelope. This place it totally digital. Just place your broken limb, anywhere on the bed/table, the xray is shot and is picked up directly by a digitizer and saved on a computer. All trauma rooms have big LCD touch screen monitors hooked up to the network were all xrays are available and displayed directly. How cool is that?

I got a shot of freezing to my hand and after a few minutes I see the Doc wheel in a big compressed air tank, and some air tools. This was straight out of Monster Garage, but no cars in here.

The tool of choice was an air drill that uses pins instead of drill bits. I was asked to hold my broken hand down with my good hand as he proceeded to drill right into my hand. This was a little shocking. Normally you pull away from anything that is going to poke you, and to have to hold your hand down, feeling, resisting, and pushing it into a vibrating drill bit is a little masochistic.

Looking at the xray on the LCD, gave him a ball park idea of where the two pieces of bone needed to be drilled and connected with the pins. It literally took 30 seconds. No blood, no mess, just a couple of metal pins going though my hand and sticking out of my skin. Another visit to the xray scanner and we had a look at the result.

The two pieces of bone were not perfectly aligned and though it might be fine, he decided to try something else. Digging in the tool box, he grabbed a set of pliers, and started yanking and twisting on the pins, pulling them out. Nothing to it. I’m just a piece of wood in woodshop.

This time his assistant pulled on my finger to align things better, and that same air power tool punched 3 pins in my hand. Xrays looked good this time.

To prevent me from hurting people with my new metal augmentation, the Doc bent down the pins with the pliers, slapped a half-cast on and I was out in less than an hour. A split second accident, an hour to fix, but it would be 2 months before I could use the hand for riding.

Going to Whistler with a broken hand in the middle of riding season, is like driving 2 hours to see your girlfriend, but having to watch her make out with all your friends instead, while you sit alone and jealous with a non functional body part. Not cool. If you are hurt save yourself the heartbreak and stay at home.

It was the longest 2 months of my life. A casted hand impacts you a lot more than a leg. Not having two hands for typing, playing video games, riding, is a real downer. Sure, you can go for a walk, but who wants to do that?

Somehow I managed to make it and finally it was time to get my pins out. It was Friday night and I had to wait until Monday. It was an amazing sunny weekend, buddies were going riding and I just could not let that go to waste. I watched the Doc pull out the first set of pins, and I swear I even had the same brand of cheap Canadian Tire pliers, so we decided to play operation before the ride. The pins were in the pretty solid. It took quite a bit or pressure to get them to spin first and even more to slowly wiggle them out. The first motion was the weirdest as you could feel something moving deep inside your hand, in a place that you never feel much. I had a buddy initially hold down my hand and I turned the pliers while pulling, slowly creeping the pin out.

The pins were longer than I though and really deep in the bone. Several times during the extraction I was surprised thinking, surly it can’t be any longer, but it kept coming.

Finally it popped out. Another surprise - no blood at all, just three holes. So there you have it...a little home surgery helped the weekend of riding go smoothly.
A couple of weeks of stiffness followed, but now the hand is 100%.
Thanks Doc.

Full range of motion, strength, and zero pain.

The moral of this story is that as the bar rises in riding, there will inevitably be injuries. I am just glad to see that hospital tools, technology and procedures are keeping pace and allow those unfortunate ones to be back in the saddle quickly.

Tune in next week when we try to fix my ankle.

I just bought some new exacto-knife blades and a new screwdriver and a bottle of Jack, so removing the plates and screws should be pretty easy.

DISCLAIMER. Don’t be a dumb-ass and attempt to do anything that has been described above. Go see your doctor like normal people do.


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