While I was in undergraduate, I had a few experiences that led to me dealing with broken bones in college, as well as sprains and other minor limb injuries. The most significant injury was probably when I broke three toes after dropping a bass clarinet directly on my foot during my third year of college, but I also twisted my ankle a few times and sprained my wrist when I fell down a flight of stairs before band practice, and had to adjust how I would be getting to my classes, doing my homework, and completing other activities of daily living. Here are my tips for dealing with broken bones in college and other injuries. It’s worth noting I don’t have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome or another medical condition that makes me more prone to breaking bones/spraining limbs, I just have poor balance from Chiari Malformation and am more prone to falls.
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Getting injuries diagnosed
The majority of my injuries were diagnosed via x-ray at an urgent care located about two miles from campus, which I would get to either by using a ridesharing service or asking a friend to drive me. Some of my other injuries were diagnosed at the Student Health clinic, which is located on campus and has daytime hours so that students can get treatment for minor illnesses and injuries without leaving campus, though not all campus Student Health clinics will have a x-ray machine available.
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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 viable option for me since they require the use of both arms/hands. 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 if they will be using a scooter
- 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 for foot injuries- this will be determined by a medical provider, but when I broke several toes I asked to use the boot cast over another option as it was easier for me to balance with
- Navigating High School With a Leg Brace
- Seven Places I Don’t Take My Blindness Cane
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Can I use a blindness cane with an injured wrist?
When I injured my wrist, I wondered if I was going to be able to use my blindness cane during the recovery process. 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 students/staff who use mobility aids such as a blindness cane
- Service dog users
- People with medical conditions that make walking difficult
- People who have a handicap parking decal are often automatically approved with no additional documentation needed
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- Classroom Accommodations For POTS
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.
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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.
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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.
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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 items for me, going to the food stations with a friend so they can help carry items, 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.
For students who need to recover in their dorm rooms, many colleges have options for having “sick meals” delivered by dining staff or housing staff. These can be requested online and typically are included with the cost of a meal plan.
- Blindness Canes and Dining Halls: Navigating College Campuses
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- Tips For Filling Out Medical Housing Release Forms
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
- Complete physical therapy exercises in the dorm, or consider creating a custom Alexa routine to help with walking through exercises- see linked post on “Custom Workouts With Amazon Alexa”
- 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