In July 2015, former President George H.W. Bush fell in his Kennebunkport home and fractured the C2 bone (or Axis bone) in his neck. He suffered no neurological damage and, though details of the injury were never released, we know the fracture was able to grow back together with the use of neck braces. This means the fracture was never unstable, so it was probably one of two common C2 fracture types—either the tip fractured or the bone essentially split into front and back halves.
Without neurological damage, he didn’t need PT to regain strength and coordination of his arms and/or legs, but he still benefitted from PT. Sometimes therapy is about healing the injury itself, sometimes it is about recovering from the aftereffects of surgical intervention or immobilization, while other times it ensures safe, basic movement and addresses the cause of the injury in the first place.
In this case, the fracture needed a period of immobilization to heal so PT in the hospital would have ensured he could successfully move in bed and sit up, transfer out of bed to a chair, and be able to walk for short distances (at least to the bathroom) and navigate stairs (if the vacation home has stairs he needed to use to get in and out) in order to be discharged home.
The PT working with Mr. Bush almost certainly inquired about the cause of the fall to make sure the likelihood of it occurring again was minimized. This would have included ameliorating any trip hazards (such as removing throw rugs or grandchildren’s toys lying about, or dealing with pets that like to roam around people’s legs—why do they do that, anyway?) in the home, and whether he had underlying conditions (such as decreased sensation in his legs, decreased balance or decreased strength) that would put him at higher risk going forward.
After his fracture was sufficiently healed, he likely had outpatient PT to restore the range of motion and strength of his neck (after many months without moving it and relying on the brace to hold his neck up), and make sure the rest of him stayed fit.
If you have balance issues or falls, or injuries related to them, we at Family PT are ready to help you.
By Tom Fontana, MSPT