Believe it or not, I had never sprained anything or broken a bone until I was a senior in high school and fell off of a school bus. Following that injury, I’ve had an assortment of other sprained, broken, or otherwise injured limbs- including but not limited to three broken toes, a broken ankle, a broken wrist, multiple sprained ankles, and a pulled hamstring that my friend who was studying physical therapy had to help treat in my dorm room. While every student’s experience with an injury is different, today I will be sharing my tips for dealing with broken bones in college. Please note that I do not have a condition that makes me more prone to breaking bones or Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome- I just have questionable luck sometimes.
All information, content, and material of this website is for informational purposes only and are not intended to serve as a substitute for the consultation, diagnosis, and/or medical treatment of a qualified physician or healthcare provider. If you believe you are having a medical emergency, please call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.
Some background on my various injuries
This post mentions a few of the different injuries that I sustained during my college years that were diagnosed by the Student Health Center, local urgent care, or other medical professionals. The goal of sharing these injuries is to show how I was able to manage them in different situations and how I was able to get accommodations or modifications as needed.
- Falling down a flight of stairs outside of a classroom building before band practice and breaking my wrist
- Dropping my bass clarinet on my foot during a chaotic basketball game and breaking three toes
- A small accident in my dorm that would lead to a sprained ankle (and a concussion)
- Landing incorrectly when taking a jumping photo with my friend and spraining my ankle
- Pulling my hamstring when leaving a conference in California and arriving back to campus with difficulty walking
- How To Handle Medical Emergencies In A Dorm
- Blindness Canes and Falling Down: Navigating College Campuses
- What If I Get A Concussion In College?
Alternatives to using crutches
I use a blindness cane to navigate my college campus and the world around me, so traditional underarm crutches are not a good option for me. Most college students I know also avoided using underarm crutches because they were painful after long periods of time, so people usually chose one of these options with guidance from medical professionals:
- Using a knee scooter- I strongly recommend that blindness cane users have a human guide
- Having a walking cane (not to be confused with a blindness cane)
- Using elbow crutches, or a single elbow crutch in combination with a blindness cane
- Electric scooter
- Use of a boot cast, when relevant- I used a boot for my foot injuries and it worked amazingly well, especially for stability
Can I use a blindness cane with a broken wrist?
When I broke my wrist, I wondered if I was going to be able to use my blindness cane with a broken wrist. The doctor who treated me recommended a slim-fitting wrist brace/cast that I wore for several weeks that gave me the movement of my fingers, so I was able to continue to use my blindness cane with a broken wrist. If I had been unable to use my blindness cane with my dominant hand, I would have used it with my non-dominant hand or travel with a human guide or visual interpreting service to help me get information.
Requesting Disability Transporation Services
Disability transportation services allow for students and staff with documented short-term or long-term disabilities to have access to door-to-door transportation between their dorm and other buildings on campus as needed. The exact method of transportation varies between colleges, though my college uses golf carts driven by student employees.
Each college has slightly different requirements for who can use disability transportation services, but almost all colleges allow students and faculty who meet the following criteria and that have supporting documentation:
- Short-term injuries such as a broken leg
- People who use mobility aids such as crutches or a wheelchair
- Blind and low vision people who use mobility aids such as a blindness cane
- People with medical conditions that make walking difficult
- People who have a handicap parking decal are often automatically approved with no additional documentation needed
- Using Disability Transportation Services In College
- Tips For Filling Out Medical Housing Release Forms
Applying for temporary accommodations
While the process at each college is slightly different, many college disability services offices allow for students to edit existing accommodations or file for short-term disability accommodations or modifications as the result of an injury. Some examples of temporary accommodations may include:
- Use of dictation software for assignments
- Access to scribe or copies of notes
- Extended time on exams
- Use of student devices in the classroom, i.e phone
- Ability to attend classes remotely
- Referral to assistive technology specialist
The disability services office typically does not deal with adjusting due dates or granting extensions for assignments, this will need to be discussed with the professor directly.
- Learning To Use Dictation As Assistive Technology With Low Vision
- What To Know About College Assistive Technology Specialists
Attending classes remotely
When I broke three toes, I asked one of my professors if I could attend their class remotely once a week as I had great difficulty walking to their building and only had transportation services for one of the class days. My professor was fine with this arrangement and allowed me to video chat into class on their computer, and I would follow along with assignments from my dorm. While this may not be necessary for all students dealing with broken bones in college, it was helpful for me to be able to focus on learning from my professor instead of focusing on how much my foot hurt from walking over a mile to class.
- How I Attend College Classes Remotely With Chronic Illness
- My Favorite Tips For Attending Live Video Lectures
Leave for class in off-peak times
Instead of trying to push through a gigantic crowd of students and risk getting pushed around, I try to get to class during off-peak traffic times whether I have an injury or not. For me, these off-peak times are 15 minutes before classes get out. For example, if I am heading to my 10:30 class, I will leave at 10 so that I can beat the rush of students leaving their 10:15 class. Of course, this isn’t always an option, especially for back-to-back classes, but it does help me to leave earlier for classes when I can.
What about the dining hall?
One of the first things I thought about when I sprained my ankle was how I was going to go to the dining hall and get all of the food I wanted. I learned that my college has a few different options for this, including asking a dining hall staff member to grab food, going to the food stations with a friend, and sitting at a table that is close to the food station I am the most interested in- for example, I might sit in the stir-fry area around dinnertime. Another helpful thing to note is the location of the elevator or accessible entrances to the building if needed.
Looking at a campus ADA map
Many colleges have ADA maps available online that list accessible routes to get to every building on campus, as well as accessible entrances, exits, and elevator locations. These can be found by searching the name of a college or university followed by “accessible map” or “ADA map.” Most disability offices will also have a copy of the map.
- Blindness Canes and Construction: Navigating College Campuses
- Blindness Canes and Accessibility Issues: Navigating College Campuses
Other tips for dealing with broken bones in college
- Have the affected limb appropriately elevated in class or in your dorm
- Follow instructions for treatment and physical therapy
- Report campus accessibility issues- see post on “Blindness Canes and Accessibility Issues”
- Locate where to find ice or take a cooler to the dining hall if needed