This still sucks but it could have been worse

Our tech ed James adapts to life in a cast

So, it's now been 10 days since I broke the fourth metacarpal in my right (dominant) hand and while I can't say that it's been a pleasant experience, all things considered it could have been much worse. 

According to Dr Robert Koch at Boulder Community Hospital, my fracture is stable and non-displaced, it's well supported by the surrounding network of ligaments and muscles – not to mention the adjacent bones – and I should hopefully be out of this bloody cast in five weeks.

But what a cast it is. Things have apparently progressed quite a bit since the days of heavy plaster shells covered in magic marker and fingerpaint as I'm now donning a fancy Boxer's Fracture Brace from Exos Medical

Built from heat moldable materials and sporting the same Boa lace and reel technology as some high-end cycling shoes, it's surprisingly comfortable, much lower profile than traditional casts, adjustable (both in terms of tightness and shape), waterproof and semi-breathable. 

The best part, though, is that I can remove the thing for a few minutes a day for showers (and just to wiggle my fingers around a bit, too) and have been cleared to ride on a trainer or even on the road, pain and comfort permitting – win!

Moreover, Dr Koch fitted the heat moldable cast around my broken paw in less than 10 minutes (with no mess to clean up, I might add) and I've regained the use of my thumb, index finger and middle finger – a huge improvement over what was previously little more than a useless club. Under the direction of the local Exos sales rep, I've even already remolded one pressure point using a hair dryer.

Still, I obviously wasn't able to participate in the UCI-sanctioned 'cross races that came through town this past weekend so I instead played the spectator role (and downed two paper cups of freshly fried frites in the process).

While there, I spoke to a surprising number of other cyclists who'd suffered bone breakages in the same or similar areas. A couple also used Exos braces (the company make a number of different models for upper and lower arm injuries) yet most didn't even know they existed – but wished they had.

I'm going to give myself another week or two before I try to grip a handlebar with my three available fingers. I've already taken delivery of some indoor trainers to review and a pair of one-hand-friendly Sentinel trail runners from The North Face so I don't get too fat going into the holidays.

So yep, could've been much worse – like my buddy who broke his tibia in Sunday's race – so relatively speaking I'll consider myself lucky. Lemons and lemonade, and all that. 

James Huang

Technical Editor, US
James started as a roadie in 1990 with his high school team but switched to dirt in 1994 and has enjoyed both ever since. Anything that comes through his hands is bound to be taken apart, and those hands still sometimes smell like fork oil even though he retired from shop life in 2007. He prefers manual over automatic, fizzy over still, and the right way over the easy way.
  • Discipline: Mountain, road, cyclocross
  • Preferred Terrain: Up in the Colorado high-country where the singletrack is still single, the dirt is still brown, and the aspens are in full bloom. Also, those perfect stretches of pavement where the road snakes across the mountainside like an artist's paintbrush.
  • Beer of Choice: Mexican Coke
  • Location: Boulder, Colorado, USA
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