crutch walking
Physiotherapy February 12, 2021

What We Can Learn From Conor McGregor’s Post-Match Crutch Walking

By Club Health

Reading Time: 7 minutes

The name Conor McGregor is synonymous to an entire sport, an entire nation and an entire era in sport and pop culture history. The Irish mixed martial artist owes his rise to prominence to his ferocious fighting style and quotable trash talking and every time he fights, people simply tune in to watch and so do we. 

Interestingly enough, only a few weeks removed from his latest fight, we are not here to discuss or analyze his performance, his antics on the mic or his always fashionable appearance. We are here to talk about….his post-match crutch walking. This might sound slightly odd to you but this is how we think at Club Health. We can’t help but observe the human form, the way bodies move and most importantly, the way bodies recover. 

Let’s get down to specifics. 

After his fight his leg was heavily beaten up and compromised, Conor came out of the dressing room and press conference leaning on one crutch, positioning it on the side of the injured leg. Every time he would take a step, the crutch and the injured leg were advancing forward with the uninjured leg following, essentially putting his weight in the injured leg. 

Just have a look at the video below.

The Proper Way To Use Crutches 

Crutches don’t come with a manual because most people treat them like spoons, or forks – their use is assumed knowledge. What McGregor’s post-match crutch-walking taught us is that even the most seemingly basic movements have their own philosophy and right execution. Whether it’s working on your breathing, your posture or your crutch-walking, there is a lot you can learn and improve on. 

The proper way to use crutches dictates that you should always accompany the injured leg with the crutch. This provides more stability, facilitates proper gait patterns to then walk correctly when you’ll no longer need the crutches. Crutches support your walking while your leg heals, help with balance and stability and can even help your leg even if it feels weak or slightly painful. 

What makes McGregor’s wrong take on crutch-walking a head-scratcher is the stature of an athlete he is. During his interviews, he always references the team of trainers, nutritionists and specialists he surrounds himself with, in order to prepare his body for combat. For a man who understands the level of detail and precision required to be at the pinnacle of the sport, it’s surprising to see that nobody was there to advise him about the correct use of the crutches. His recovery is as important as his preparation. 

Is a qualified Physio the next addition to Conor’s team? Club Health is open to it if and when the vacancy is open. For now, let’s move to the clinical significance of the incident. 

Clinical Significance 

This might get a bit too medical but we feel it’s our duty to get to the bottom of this. Crutches are vital both in the short-term and long-term management of orthopaedic, musculoskeletal and/or neurologic injuries. By offloading your body weight from the injured extremity, you create the optimal conditions to allow healing of acute injuries.

Furthermore, crutches provide ambulatory support and mobility options to those with neurologic injuries or acute/chronic orthopaedic injuries, enabling you to stay mobile, active and independent through the recovery period. 

Crutch Basics: Step-By-Step Guide On How To Use Crutches 

We’ll walk you through this (pun intended).

  1. First and foremost, let your hands carry your weight, (not your armpits if using full body ones). 
  2. Always look ahead when you are walking, not down at your feet. Posture is important. 
  3. Make sure you use a chair with armrests to make sitting and standing easier.
  4. It is essential to adjust crutches to your height and overall body frame. 
    – The top should be 1 to 1 1/2 inches (2.5 to 4 centimetres) below your armpit
    – The handles should be at hip level or at the fold of your wrist when arms are hanging by your side, fully extended.
    – Your elbows should be slightly bent when you hold the handles.
  5. Keep the tips of your crutches about 3 inches (7.5 centimetres) away from your feet in order to eliminate the risk of tripping and falling over. 

Walking & Turning

Now that we have the placement down, let’s see how you actually use the crutches when in motion. 

  1. When you walk using crutches, move your crutches forward ahead of your affected/weak leg. 
  2. Lean on the handles of your crutches and move your body forward. Use the crutches for support. NEVER step forward and put weight on the injured leg.
  3. Finish the step by swinging your strong leg forward.
  4. Repeat steps 1 through 3 to move forward.
  5. In order to turn, always pivot on your strong leg. 

For forearm crutches: The hand grip should allow for 30-degrees of elbow flexion. The cuff should be 1.5 inches below the elbow, and the crutch should sit 4 inches outside your feet. 

Types of Weight-Bearing

Weight bearing is the amount of pressure, weight and strain someone puts on their lower extremities – it usually refers to an injured leg, ankle or foot. 

Non Weight-Bearing 

This means keep your weak leg off the ground when you walk;

Touch-down weight-bearing: You may touch the ground with your toes to help with balance. DO NOT bear weight on your weak leg.

Partial Weight-Bearing 

Your provider will tell you how much weight you can put on the leg.

Weight-bearing as tolerated: You may put more than half of your body weight on your weak leg as long as it is not painful.

Types Of Crutches

Yes, there are different types of crutches and the same way you’d never buy a Lamborghini to go camping, you’ll want to find the right crutches for your use case. 

Axilla Crutches

Their ease of use makes them an excellent option for most individuals. Their design allows the user to transfer most of their body weight to the arms and torso. They are best for short-term use and are not recommended for individuals with wrist problems, weak upper body strength, or impairment of coordination.

Forearm Crutches

These are the crutches Conor used after his fight. Widely known to help long-term injuries, these crutches allow the weight of the user to be transferred to their upper arms. The user needs to possess good upper body strength to use these crutches effectively. Individuals with long-term disabilities looking to be more active or participate in sports may choose forearm crutches as an option.

Platform Crutches 

The least common of the three platform crutches allow the weight of the patient to be transferred to their forearms. While it affords the user more stability than the axilla and forearm crutches, the platform crutch has less manoeuvrability.

They are mainly intended for long-term use for individuals with long-term disabilities such as severe neurological impairment of their lower extremities with decreased stability. 

Crutch Walking Recap

There you have it. On a night where the whole world was on their feet, in front of their TV sets, we were taking notes about health, proper crutch walking and injury recovery best practices. 

Our lines and email are always open and we can’t wait to discuss how we can assist you. Our goal at the Club is to help your body maximize its potential and create a lifestyle with health as its cornerstone. 

References:

  • Edelstein J. Canes, crutches, and walkers. In: Webster JB, Murphy DP, eds. Atlas of Orthoses and Assistive Devices. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 36.
  • Meftah M, Ranawat AS, Ranawat AS, Caughran AT. Total hip replacement rehabilitation: progression and restrictions. In: Giangarra CE, Manske RC, eds. Clinical Orthopaedic Rehabilitation. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 66.
  • Feldman DR, Vujic I, McKay D, Callcott F, Uflacker R. Crutch-induced axillary artery injury. Cardiovasc Intervent Radiol. 1995 Sep-Oct;18(5):296-9
  • Potter BE, Wallace WA. Crutches. BMJ. 1990 Nov 03;301(6759):1037-9.
  • Nagasaki T, Katoh H, Arizono H, Chijimatsu H, Chijiwa N, Wada C. Analysis of Crutch Position in the Horizontal Plane to Estimate the Stability of the Axillary Pad in the Axilla during Single-crutch Walking. J Phys Ther Sci. 2014 Nov;26(11):1753-6.
  • Dooley A, Ma Y, Zhang Y. The Effect of a Shock Absorber on Spatiotemporal Parameters and Ground Reaction Forces of Forearm Crutch Ambulation. Assist Technol. 2015 Winter;27(4):257-62