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How to be a Crutch Master

Mastering crutches makes a major difference in your frustration regarding ACL recovery.  Depending on the invasiveness of the surgery, you will be on crutches anywhere from 2 to 8 weeks. You aren’t going to be able to do much of anything after your surgery, but if you have a hard time on crutches, too, then you are going to be in a whole lot of trouble, mentally and physically. There is an art to crutching. After using crutches for all 7 of my surgeries, I am the crutch master. I used to race kids in my high school down the hall ways; no one could believe how fast I was. I could crutch forwards, backwards, and side to side. This helped tremendously, navigating the halls of high school and the narrow pathways between desks in the classroom and isles on the school bus. I crutched with ease except for when I slipped on a water spill and fell on my butt in front of the whole high school as a freshman. The entire hallway full of people froze and just stared at me, sitting there on the ground. I’m not sure if they wanted to laugh or wanted to check on me, but no one moved and no one said a word. I couldn’t get back up because my knee was too immobile and finally a big senior football player walked over and picked me up, handed me each of my crutches and walked away in silence. I was too nervous to thank him at the time, but his gesture was one I will always remember.

Becoming a crutch master requires starting with the basics: form, technique, and strength. If you have access to crutches, I highly recommend practicing on them before your surgery. Make sure the crutches are set to the appropriate height by changing the bottom portion to the pre-labeled height notches.  Then measure them against your body to make sure that it is accurate. When planting the crutches on the ground underneath you, the top of the crutch should come about 2 inches below your armpit and the handle of the crutch where the hand placement goes should be level to the length of your arm. Now test out your height selections by putting your hand on the handle portion and lifting up your body weight using the crutches. The legs of the crutches should be right by your sides and not out too wide, and then underarm portion of your crutch should still be about 2 inches below your armpit with a comfortable length for your hands to hold yourself up in this position. Crutches aren’t meant to go directly under the armpit, which would be extremely painful and not functional.

Now that you have the appropriate height it’s time to practice crutching. The uninjured leg should be planted firmly on the ground, and you should be holding yourself up about 2 inches above the actual armrest on the crutch. Bring both crutches in front of you about a foot, while keeping your core tight, and let your body slowly swing until your foot is back underneath the crutches. By conditioning your body to hold up your own weight, you will be more mobile on your crutches. Body weight is heavy, so it is going to be hard to crutch distances. Practice makes this process much smoother and will make your recovery life much easier.