The broken part

Breaking Under the Bar

The broken part
The broken part

(Part one of a series on my injury and recovery)

I actually remember hearing two distinct cracks when my right arm broke a year ago. The spotters thought it was the sound of my squat suit snapping, at least until the bar started to move. I had just walked the bar out of the rack for my second squat of the day. It was only 192.5kg, which really isn’t much, compared to what other lifters can do. It was as I stood there getting set for my squat that things kind of went wrong. I wasn’t going to be able to live-blog this competition after all.

A Squat Rack
A squat rack

Everything from the spotters re-racking the weight, getting myself out from under the bar and the part where I apparently looked at my arm and said, ‘ah shit’ passed in a blur of adrenalin and shock. The pain only started to set in while I was waiting for the ambulance to arrive. Fortunately the ambos brought drugs. (Apparently I am funnier on painkillers.) They also wanted me to choose a hospital, which given the state I was in seemed to be expecting a little too much. One of the guys who had been hanging around waiting with me suggested I go to the Royal Brisbane, as he worked in ER there, and lacking any cohesive clue myself I went with it.

The rest of the afternoon was more or less a haze of morphine. Only a few things stuck in my mind from my stay in emergency: the fun that was cutting me out of my squat suit and t-shirt (my girlfriend arrived in time to ensure they cut the suit along the seams), and the part where they needed to check my arm for puncture wounds (when aforementioned girlfriend was too busy being morbidly fascinated to be sympathetic). Because both the radius and ulna were broken (see helpful diagram above) my wrist was only connected to the rest of my arm by flesh. It was floppy. As a result checking the underside of my arm for punctures was going to be problematic. To see all of my arm they had to lift it up, and to do this, they needed to hold both loosely connected parts and move them at the same speed. They did it perfectly once in two tries.

I don’t really remember when they were done, but the first x-rays showed that I had a compound fracture of both my ulna and radius. I was told later that these almost never happen in powerlifting, and it seems there might have been contributing factors other than the weight on the bar. At first it looked unlikely that I would get into surgery that day. Just in case I had to spend the night in hospital before they could cut me open, they knocked me out to set my arm. Being properly unconscious was the best thing to happen to me that afternoon, with morphine coming a close second. Thankfully I actually did make it to surgery that afternoon, though not until about 5pm. By the time I got out of theatre it was 10:30pm, and my girlfriend, who had been waiting the whole time and keeping people informed via Twitter on my phone, told me I had been in there for over five hours.

The next day was mostly spent trying to read (and failing) and realising my phone was dangerously low on power. I also discovered that touch screens are easy to work with your non-dominant hand. In the afternoon both of my sisters and one of my brothers-in-law came to visit me. And they bought me coffee from the coffee cart in the food court. Considering the morphine-fuelled haze in which I spent most of the day, this was clearly awesome. It was only a few hours later that I was discharged, once I was able to prove that I was more or less functional. It was not long before I was getting into my sister’s car, wearing a shirt I couldn’t quite get on, a blue sling I had to chase down from the physios, a nearly flat phone, a prescription for a cubic ton of painkillers, my arm in a backslab and an appointment for the following week.


  • If you plan on going to hospital, take your charger
  • It is hard to read after surgery
  • Apparently morphine makes me a better person
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10 thoughts on “Breaking Under the Bar”

  1. Sorry Anthony, I know it is really painful but Tam is right, you make it sound funny.
    Thanks Tam for sharing this with us on Facebook

  2. That is a great x-ray. It’s a pitty you couldn’t get a MRI that would have looked good.
    What ever the stuff is they give you when your in surgery is great stuff. .
    The theatre nurses were laughing their heads of because I couldnt get any jokes out I kept laughing at them before I told them. My internal dialogue was hilarious.

    Cant believe it is a year since you did that Corvo.
    Do you beep when you fly ??

    1. Sorry I don’t have any more imagery, the xrays are all I had. Sounds like you were interesting in theatre, all I remember was noticing that they had a small stereo.

      Haven’t flown yet, so I don’t know if I beep.

  3. I remember the same weird situation when I broke my arm. I distinctly felt both bones break, like carrots, but it didn’t hurt at all – the pain gradually began to set in. The drugs they gave me, of course, were fun.

    I’m trying to imagine – how exactly did you break your arm walking out a squat? Did the bar start to slip from your back so all the weight came to rest on one arm? I’m asking because I’d like to avoid doing whatever you did.

    1. Sounds like your experience was similar to mine.

      I think the problem with my squat setup was setting the bar very low, which bent my wrist back a fair bit. My build and limb proportions are probably not ideal for that setup. Then there was the little matter of a possible stress fracture. In the months leading up to the comp I started to get pain in my wrist whenever it had just been loaded. A surgeon said it was possible those symptoms I described may have been a stress fracture.

      1. Yikes. That’s good to know, especially because i like to squat with the bar pretty low. Hopefully that was just a freak occurrence. I find that extending my grip as wide as possible makes it easier to keep my wrists straight, just be careful not to pinch your hands reracking the bar.

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