As a physical therapist, I’ve noticed that a lot of folks out there are curious about what life looks like after dealing with a tibial plateau fracture.
I’m going to give you the lowdown by sharing three real-life stories of patients (with all their personal info kept under wraps) who’ve gone through the whole tibial plateau fracture journey. Plus, I’ll throw in some data from a broader group to give you a more comprehensive picture of what to expect.
So,enjoy the read, and don’t hesitate to drop a comment if you want to swap stories, join the conversation, or ask any burning questions 🙂!
Last update: October 2023
Disclaimer: Affiliate links. Complete disclosure in legal notices.
Written by Nelly Darbois, a trained physical therapist & scientific writer
Patient 1: Active woman in her 30s, displaced tibial plateau fracture requiring surgery
We’ve got a sporty woman 🏃♀️💪 in her thirties. She ended up with a displaced tibial plateau fracture that needed surgery.
One day, while she was out jogging, she took a bit of a tumble. Unfortunately, her knee bore the brunt of the impact, leading to a pretty gnarly fracture.
Fast-forward three months, and she’s walking around without much trouble, even doing some light jogging. Come six months, and she’s back to her athletic self.
Patient 2: 65-year-old man with diabetes, non-displaced tibial plateau fracture
Now, we’ve got a 65-year-old gentleman 🧓, dealing with diabetes, who found himself facing a non-displaced tibial plateau fracture.
Considering his age and health condition, surgery wasn’t the go-to treatment. Instead, we opted for a more conservative approach.
His initial days revolved around gentle exercises to maintain mobility, along with some weight-bearing restrictions. A few weeks in, he’s still taking it easy, but things are progressing.
Three months in, and he’s walking comfortably without too much fuss. At the five-month mark, he’s steadily getting back to his daily routines, and his knee’s looking much better.
Patient 3: 40-year-old man with non-displaced bicondylar tibial plateau fracture
This patient was involved in a car accident. He sustained fractures in both tibial plateau condyles (bicondylar fracture), in addition to rib fractures. The tibial plateau fracture required surgery.
During the first few weeks, I provided in-home physiotherapy because he couldn’t leave his house, mainly due to the rib fractures. Despite being a smoker, he decided not to quit, even though he was aware it might slow down the healing of his wounds (due to the tibial plateau surgery). Fortunately, there were no complications regarding the wound.
He remained non-weight-bearing, using crutches for six weeks. Afterward, he continued his rehabilitation on his own, as he didn’t wish to continue with in-office physiotherapy. Given his proximity to my location, our paths crossed regularly.
One year post-fracture, he was unfortunately among those who still experienced residual pain and knee stiffness. He had returned to work, with a part-time therapeutic schedule, in his occupation as a manual laborer.
What studies say about life after plateau tibial fracture?
I’ve provided you with three examples of my patients that are quite illustrative of how one can recover after a tibial plateau fracture and at what pace.
But approximately 35,000 people in the United States have tibial plateau fractures each year (Malik 2023).
Of course, this doesn’t cover all the possible recovery scenarios. Many known and unknown factors come into play, and it’s tough to predict how life will be post-tibial plateau fracture (although most folks don’t experience long-term issues).
So, let’s dive into some numbers on how frequently permanent restrictions or lingering effects occur after a tibial plateau fracture and how people get back to their pre-injury lives.
Will you be able to return to work?
A German study followed 39 people for several years after a tibial plateau fracture.
Half of them returned to work before 120 days (4 months), while the other half did so after.
The quickest people returned in about 10 days, whereas the slowest took almost 2 years.
About 10% of the people reduced their working hours by approximately 10 hours per week.
Source : Kraus 2018
Will you be able to resume sports activities?
Out of approximately 900 people with a tibial plateau fracture, whether they underwent surgery or not (with most people opting for surgery), the rate of returning to sports is 70% in the months/years that follow.
This means that 7 out of 10 people who have experienced a fracture resume their sporting activities.
Source : Robertson 2017
What is the quality of life after tibial plateau fracture?
Studies on the quality of life after a tibial plateau fracture primarily focus on those who have undergone surgery since they make up the majority.
Results vary significantly among studies. Some studies conclude that the average quality of life of individuals who have undergone surgery for tibial plateau fractures is the same as that of the general population of the same age and sex.
Others conclude that functional outcomes are excellent to satisfactory in 73% of patients, which means that 1 in 4 patients may potentially not have good results.
One possible consequence of a tibial plateau fracture is the development of knee osteoarthritis, which tends to progress more rapidly. This is the case for most joint fractures, actually.
What can you take away from this?
You can remain positive: the majority of people recover and regain an excellent quality of life, returning to their hobbies, sports, and work as before.
If you are part of the small percentage of people still experiencing issues several years after a tibial plateau fracture, it’s certainly unpleasant and unfair. I have encountered people in this situation before.
Unfortunately, there is no magic treatment to improve things, but maintaining hope for natural spontaneous improvement remains an option.
Here’s what I wanted to tell you about this! I wish you a very good recovery! Do you have any comments or questions? Your comments are welcome 🙂 !
You may also like:
Malik S, Herron T, Mabrouk A, et al. Tibial Plateau Fractures. [Updated 2023 Apr 22]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK470593/
Kraus, TM, Abele, C, Freude, T, et al. Duration of incapacity of work after tibial plateau fracture is affected by work intensity. BMC Musculoskelet Disord 2018; 19(1): 1–8.
Robertson GAJ, Wong SJ, Wood AM. Return to sport following tibial plateau fractures: A systematic review. World J Orthop. 2017 Jul 18;8(7):574-587. doi: 10.5312/wjo.v8.i7.574. PMID: 28808629; PMCID: PMC5534407.
Bagherifard A, Mirkamali SF, Rashidi H, Naderi N, Hassanzadeh M, Mohammadpour M. Functional outcomes and quality of life after surgically treated tibial plateau fractures. BMC Psychol. 2023 May 3;11(1):146. doi: 10.1186/s40359-023-01195-2. PMID: 37138311; PMCID: PMC10157953.
Written by Nelly Darbois
I love writing articles based on my experience as a physiotherapist (since 2012), scientific writer, and extensive researcher in international scientific literature.
I live in the French Alps 🌞❄️, where I work as a scientific editor for my own website, which is where you are right now.