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PTSD post sports accident?

I think this topic applies to most active sports, but since it happened while mountain biking, I am posting here.  I'm an avid outdoors person, road biking, touring, and a little mountain biking among other outdoor things.  

I'm wondering if others have dealt with PTSD after a bad crash or sports accident?  Mine was a stupid thing (aren't they all?), riding on a fine, flat gravel road, somehow turned handlebars full left, and instead of falling onto my shoulder and rolling, I landed full impact on my left leg.  Femur broke near hip.

Even after a few weeks, this is difficult to talk about but memory is fading.  I have never felt such agony.  My brother and I were a mile or so from a low traffic highway, it was close to 100 degrees and I laid there in agony and broiling for about 3 hours before rescue arrived.  He covered me with tree  branches  but that didn't keep the ants and flies from sniffing around.  Rescue could not get a vehicle through forest service gate, so they brought the gurney which meant I had to ride out on sandy, rocky road, which added to the discomfort.  Emergency pain med didn't help much.

The I was transported to a hospital trauma center and immediately surrounded by all kinds of people asking the same questions. My only request was give me something to stop the pain.  

The process of hospitalization, surgery, etc. was so overwhelming as I've never been any where near this circumstance. For what it's worth, I'm not a "kid".  I'm a 71 year old very fit, very active female.  Or,  I was.

So the recovery process goes on and I get better by leaps and bounds, being physically strong.

The thought of getting on any of my bikes, running trails, even hiking, is scary.  I'm wondering if any of you readers have experienced similar or know someone who has, and what did you do to overcome the emotional fear and trauma?

Comments and suggestions welcomed.  Thanks.


6 Replies

So sorry to hear about the accident and, yes, I totally get it. During a martial arts demo, my thumb was broken when my partner accidentally struck it with a oak staff. This is a close friend with whom I've trained for years, including this specific demo. Had a really hard time at the next demo. And that was just a thumb that healed quickly. I can't imagine the level at which you're dealing with this. So, first of all, positive thoughts for a quick (ish) recorvery.

As for suggestions, I don't know if this would be in your budget, but... do you have a wind trainer or stationary bike? If so, I'd suggest using a pair of VR goggles (or a set that can hold your smartphone) and start off doing some virtual riding to get comfortable in the saddle again. You can load up some fairly aggressive routes. That will, at the very least, get you past the initial nervousness of being on the bike on a path.


“Between every two pine trees there is a door leading to a new way of life.” (John Muir)

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

Thanks for the well wishes and the tip.  I don't have an indoor trainer but at some point, I can get to the gym and ride inside. I think.


Hey there @Gypsea!

I feel your pain!  When I was 15 I broke my ankle roller skating and after 2 surgeries and a long recovery, I swore I would never strap something to me feet again.  And you know what...I didn't!  It took me many years to overcome this fear.  About 20 years later I decided to learn to ski and it was so much fun, but I really wish I would've done it earlier.

Fast forward to current day and I just recently took a nasty spill on my bike.  Fortunately nothing broke.  However, the idea of getting back on the bike, even after everything was healed up, was scary.  I have avoided the path I fell on entirely!  But I am back on my bike!  What helped me was visualizing what went wrong and reminding myself of all the countless rides I have been on where everything went perfectly fine.  I found this helped tremendously.  Sounds like you have likely had many great rides over the years.

Hopefully, you continue to have a great recovery and then just go at your own pace, whatever that might look like post trauma.  You are definitely not alone!

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

Thanks for the suggestion and I'll start right away.  I agree that visualization is very powerful and having ridden for years, this was the only time I've been injured to the point where I have had PTSD.

@Gypsea I was hit by a car while road cycling near my home. Broken femur and hip crushed into 7 pieces and bone slivers everywhere in joint with loss of 3 pints of blood. First surgery was redone a year later with "revisionist hardware". At that time of my accident, I cycled across several states and regularly completed  100 milers.

Four years later, I still fear road cycling and receive PT to regain strength in the left leg.  I am slowly returning to cycling with much fewer miles and training in a state park to regain confidence. I've taken up long distance hiking as an alternative.  With time, baby steps and support from PT buddies, I'm working my way back into cycling. Mind and body trauma heal slowly. I had to let go of the way "it used to be" and accept my new self. Be patient and kind to your new self and trust, if you approach it slowly, a new level of fitness will emerge. I have to do it in baby steps. Leaps and bounds recovery did not happen for me. Good luck!


Thanks for sharing your story, Roadrunner.  My cycling previous level was about same as yours was, with trail running, hiking, and a few other outdoor activities as well. 

I thought my accident was bad, but yours was worse.  I'm glad it's behind you and the memory is fading, as you get back to whatever the new normal will be for you.  I'm with you on the baby steps; I am learning it's different for everyone, regardless of fitness level.

I don't think I'll write about this on my blog as I try to keep that all positive, but maybe someday when it's just a distant memory...maybe some inspiration here?

I wish you luck as well.  Retain that optimism and the support you have and your baby steps will pay off.