radial head fracture


Lets rewind to the sunny evening of July 2nd. I put my bike on the rack on my car and drove to the City Center, where I parked and hopped on my bike for a ride through some neighborhoods. For no particular reason, it was one of my favorite rides I’ve done in quite a while. It was a place I haven’t rode before and I typically don’t go through neighborhoods like this.

Bike leaning against rusted bridge fence overlooking river
nervous in a splint
Strava map

While heading back to where I had parked my car, actually at the intersection right next to where I had parked is where it happened. I was foolishly crossing the road without my hands on the handlebars, and looked behind me. I’ve done this several times before without issue, but within a second, my arms were reaching over the handlebar with my hands scraped along the pavement. Luckily, I was wearing some new really thick padded biking gloves that saved my hands from some gnarly scrapes. There wasn’t much pain at all, so I stood up and as I picked up my bike, I watched my Apple Watch fall to the ground.

I picked up the watch and examined it. The screen was not shattered, scratched, nor damaged in the least. The piece of the watchband that connects the strap to the display was broken. I do have to relieve Apple of any criticisms and say that the watchband was not one of Apple’s; but rather just a random one that had good reviews online. Ever since then, I’ve been wondering to myself if I had purchased one from Apple, if it would have held together — I’m thinking so.

Back to the injury! I didn’t feel pain besides my arm feeling rough almost as if it had been twisted badly. I assumed it would get back to normal with time. I did a small final loop and then went home. During that loop, I noticed my other elbow had been bleeding. I stopped to bandage it up — which did not hold on due to a combination of sweat and sunblock. I removed the gauze bandage, finished up my ride, and went home.

by the way: I’ve used my biking first aid kit several times on the trails, mostly for unprepared parents. Here’s the contents: non-latex gloves, neosporin, tick remover, roll of 4 inch gauze, medical tape, two 4x2 inch bandaids, two blister bandaids, four gauze pads, small butterfly closures.

The right arm continued to feel as if it had been twisted badly. However, the next morning, I had noticed that I was unable to extend my arm straight. I’m awful with math, but it was bent at a pretty good angle, so I took a trip to my clinic’s urgent care.

A couple X-rays later, I was left waiting in the room while it was being processed. It seemed to take an unreasonably long period of time, but I waited and waited and waited. And a tip for you: always bring headphones to doctor and dental visits. Just be sure to give a little “hey, I hope you don’t mind.. I can still hear you” to your doctor. As soon as the doctor opens the door, she tells me “bad news.” My arm was put in a sling and I was referred to Twin Cities Orthopedics’ urgent care.

Xray room
in a sling

My clinic gave me a CDROM of the X-rays, to hopefully prevent them from having to take new ones and avoid the cost of that. Sure enough, they were able to use that. I was seeing a nurse shortly after filling out an extended questionnaire on an iPad. It really was quick. She says she looked at the X-rays and informed me that it was a radial head fracture. It’s when the end of the bone next to the funny bone gets fractured in the elbow. She said that since it was a cleaner cut (without shattering), surgery likely isn’t needed. Thank god. My question was finally answered. She put a custom made splint on and wrapped it up in bandaging. I was given some painkillers just in case and advised to make a follow up appointment with a surgeon within 5 days.

Not being able to move the arm wasn’t the worst part. The worst was spending my vacation days from work. That really sucked. Bagging it for showers wasn’t even as bad as I had expected. During this time, I was mostly staying home and just hanging out. I started going on walks just to get out of the house, because on day one, I was already sick of sitting at home keeping the arm stabilized. I actually was feeling pain during this time, not from the fracture, but rather from my wrist bone rubbing against the solid split. It was almost a burning sensation.

arm in a sling
puzzle pieces on a table
my arm in a splint and sling
rainy walk for the fourth of july

The day of the surgeon finally comes. I was still real nervous about getting my arm cut open. I arrive and he takes me in. The nurse cuts off the split and it reaks of homeless feet and appears unrecognizable, all shriveled up. Doctor Mike comes in and shows me the X-rays. He says I could get surgery, but it would likely cause more problems, so it’s better to let it heal on it’s own. The procedure would be an incision above the elbow and a screw put in to hold it together. Definitely not going to if it’s not required.

I was put on a one pound a week weight limit (one pound the first week, two the second, and so forth). I was also given some arm exercises to do a few times a day. At this point, I was unable to twist my hand completely over from palm down to palm up. Anyway, I returned to work two days later with that same weight limit. I actually never let anybody know how difficult typing was, or how easily my arm became heavy and tired, but I survived.

Funny thing is I later found out it was the surgeon’s 7th day on the job when he saw me. I’m just glad I didn’t know that ahead of my appointment. Anyway, it will take 3 months to heal fully and I’m hoping to be back on my bike within two months (as that’s when it should be healed about ninety percent healed). That’s all I have for now. Thank you for caring enough to read.