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How to Use Crutches

Crutches, even in a young athlete, can be hard to manage. If you are over 30, over-weight or just plan not coordinated; ask your doctor if they have an alternative to crutches. You are better off using a walker, rolling device, or wheel chair than falling down on crutches.

Size your crutches! The best scenario is that you are fitted for your crutches by a health care professional, but if you cannot do that here are a few rules of thumb: Crutch pad distance from arm pits should be two finger widths with the shoulders relaxed. Hand grips should be placed so your elbow flexes about 15-30 degrees. The crutch length should be equal to the distance from your armpit to about 6" in front of a shoe.

Start in a tripod position which means placing your crutch tips about 4-6" to the side and in front of each foot. Stand on you non-injured foot. To be non-weightbearing (requires upper body strength), begin in the tripod, advance both crutches and the injured foot, then move the injured foot forward beyond the steady crutches. Advance both the crutches and the non-injured foot, and repeat. Sounds simple, but takes some practice to maneuver. Always have a spotter in the beginning!
The safest way to go upstairs is on your backside - not your crutches!

Follow these safety rules of Do’s and Don’ts:

  1. Don’t look down, look straight ahead
  2. Don’t use crutches if you are dizzy or drowsy!
  3. Don’t walk on slippery surfaces
  4. Do make sure your crutches have good solid rubber tips
  5. Do wear a comfortable shoe or sneaker on your non-injured foot (flip-flops cause more injuries from falling!)
  6. Do size your crutches
  7. Do call you doctor if you fall!!! Or if you are having difficulties with crutches.

Be sure to watch the video at the top of the page to see Dr. Paul Steinke demonstrate how to properly use crutches!

Adapted from "Instructions For Using Crutches" Patient informational handouts from the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons, 2004)