If you have ever gone through an episode of a broken leg, you might understand how difficult life can become with limitations on your mobility.
A fracture or a broken leg typically takes about 8 – 12 weeks to heal, or slightly longer if you have been unfortunate enough to fracture your femur.
During that recovery time, it is best to avoid putting weight on your broken leg, and you may be required to wear a cast or advised to utilize a wheelchair.
In this article, we will discuss whether you will need a wheelchair if you have a broken leg, and if you need one, what to consider before buying one. We will also go on and review some of the best wheelchairs suited to a user with a broken leg.
Should You Be On a Wheelchair if You Have a Broken Leg?
Typically, if your broken leg is your only main physical challenge and you are physically fit otherwise, your physician may have advised you to lead as active a life as possible to help you maintain strength and get things done. This means that you could be using the crutches to help you go outside and engage in light physical activity. However, in certain cases, examples of which are below, you may be advised to get a wheelchair as well:
- If you have been unfortunate enough to break both your legs
- If you are obese and will be unable to support your weight on crutches for long
- If your work style or daily activities require you to be mobile for a long time
What to Consider While Buying a Wheelchair for a Broken Leg
- Good support for legs: Since your broken leg will be able to support very little weight or no weight at all, it is better that your wheelchair has calf supports attached to the footrest.
- Lightweight: The wheelchair should be light and easy to maneuver for your comfort.
- Width: The width of the wheelchair must be narrow enough for you to be able to comfortably pass through doorways and passageways in your home.
- Budget: If broken leg is the reason you are on a wheelchair, you will be likely on the wheelchair for about 2 – 3 months. Therefore, you should ideally invest in a comfortable model that is as good of value as possible.
- Finally, your physician would likely have told you to maintain as much physical activity as possible. Therefore, I would recommend buying a manual self-propelled and not a or . Self-propelling your wheelchair will help you be active throughout your recovery process.
Below, we review a few popular wheelchairs, while keeping the above considerations in mind. Selecting a wheelchair is a matter of personal taste and comfort and we hope that the reviews will help you make the correct buying decision.
#1 – Medline Self-Propelled Wheelchair
This is a basic manual wheelchair with nylon upholstery. The device weighs 38 lbs without the footrests and has a maximum carrying capacity of 300 lbs. The wheelchair has 24 inches solid rubber tires with metal rims for ease of propelling.
The seat height adjustment feature is a great to have option so that you can customize the wheelchair as per your height. Ideally, the adjustment should be such that the knee level does not come above the pelvis level while you are sitting, and your legs are placed on the footrests.
While the footrests can be swung away to get you better access to the wheelchair seat from the front, it is generally more convenient to access the seat from the sides, by moving the arm rests away.
However, in this wheelchair, the arm rests are fixed to the body of the chair and you cannot access the seat from the sides. The seat is basic and does not have cushioning.
If you are anticipating long period of wheelchair use, you may want to additionally budget for the cushion to make yourself more comfortable. You may also want to install anti-tipper wheels separately to the chair, which prevents your wheelchair from toppling over backwards.
- Available in three seat sizes of 16, 18, and 20 inches
- Easy to self-propel and maneuver with puncture proof tires
- Seat height can be adjusted up to 2 inches
- Easy to fold and store in car trunks
- Full length arm rests for better comfort and distribution of body weight
- Good value for money
- No calf pads on leg support to help you with a broken leg
- No hand brakes for attendant
- The 20-inch seat model has a total width of close to 30 inches and may not let you pass through narrower doorways
The video below demonstrates how the Medline Self-propelled Wheelchair is assembled:
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#2 – Karman Ergonomic Ultra Lightweight Wheelchair
This self-propelled model of wheelchair, made of aircraft grade aluminum, is extremely light at slightly under 20 lbs and has a maximum weight carrying capacity of 220 lbs.
The model comes with hand brakes for use by the companion and its ergonomic design is expected to reduce the chances of pressure sores from long use.
The lightweight chair is ideal for users with impaired upper body strength and is very easy to maneuver and self-propel. While the heel loops on the footrests help to keep your legs in place, the absence of calf padding may make long wheelchair use uncomfortable.
A workaround is purchasing leg rests separately and getting them installed on your wheelchair. And while you are accessorizing your wheelchair, you would also want to increase the safety of your chair by installing anti-tipper wheels.
The solid rubber wheels of the chair are flat-free and save you the additional headache of frequently checking the air pressure of your rear tires.
- Ergonomically designed seat and backrest for greater comfort
- Easy to fold and carry around as also to store in the back of a car
- Comes fully assembled and you just have to install the footrests
- Attendant brakes make it easier for care giver to stop the chair
- No calf pads on wheelchair to act as support for a broken leg
- Not suitable for heavy users
#3 – Healthline Lightweight Self-Propelled Wheelchair
The wheelchair has a carbon steel frame with full length arm rests. It weighs 55 lbs and has a maximum weight carrying capacity of 300 lbs. The overall width of the 18-inch seat model is 27 inches and comes with a wheelchair carry bag for easy transportation.
A few safety features are missing from the model. You may want to separately install a couple of safety features onto the wheelchair, including the anti-tipper wheels and seat belts. Seat belts are important for this model as they do not have hand brake option for the attendant.
While the calf-rests increase the combined weight of the chair by about 5 lbs, they are extremely comfortable in providing the required support for your broken leg.
A slight practical problem that users may face with this wheelchair is that there is a slight gap between the seat and the backrest and if you are used to carrying items on your lap or on the sides of your seat, you run the risk of these items falling through the gap.
- Firm calf padding with leg rests that can be elevated to keep your leg straight in seated position. The leg rests are detachable as well.
- Conveniently located brakes on top of the rear wheels
- Easy to maneuver and fold for storage in car
- Good value for money
- Slightly on the heavier side at just over 50 lbs (including the footrests)
- Material quality of front wheels may not withstand a lot of weight when going over rough and hard surfaces
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#4 – Drive Medical Self-Propelled Wheelchair (Model: Cruiser III)
This popular manual wheelchair from prominent mobility aid and medical device manufacturer, Drive Medical, comes with adjustable arm rests (both height adjustability and swing away features) for easy access to the seat and swing-away footrests for greater freedom.
If you are over 6 feet in height and weight anywhere over 250 lbs, you may want to order the model with the 20-inch seating capacity. The maximum weight capacity is 350 lbs for the 20-inch model and 300 lbs for the 16-inch and 18-inch seat sized models.
The thickly padded calf-rests are really helpful for providing support to patients with a broken leg. While the chair does not have hand brakes for the attendant, it is equipped with push-to-lock braking system that is within the convenient control of the user.
While the leg rests are adjustable, the lowest adjustment still makes the leg rests stick out more towards the front of the wheelchair, compared to other chairs. You may find that it is a problem if you are going through a doorway that is not wheelchair friendly and requires you to take an immediate turn upon entering.
- Carbon steel frame adds lot to durability and stability of the chair
- Lightweight model at just under 38 lbs, makes it easy for manual use
- Adjustable seat depth will allow addition of extra seat cushioning and still maintain comfortable height for armrests
- Available options for seating capacity of 16, 18 and 20 inches to exactly suit your needs. You should take the perfect size for you for the best experience.
- Good value for money
- Wheelchair allows for back inserts for better back support
- Comes with a calf muscle support in higher end models, for better leg support
- Built in seat cushioning may not be sufficient for longer ride comfort. Consider getting an additional seat cushion to place on top.
#5 – ProBasics Standard Reclining Manual Wheelchair by Roscoe Medical
This model can be fully reclined and has full back support and head rest for better distribution of body weight. The anti-tipper supports prevent the wheelchair from tipping over backwards when reclined.
The bar across the back of the headrest can be removed to fold the wheelchair like a normal model. The maximum weight supported by the chair is 300 lbs.
Since the wheelchair has a full back support and leg rests as well, the overall length of the chair tends to be more than the average wheelchair. Therefore, on this chair as well, you will find it difficult to maneuver in tight spots and it will be tricky to go through doorways which require you to take an immediate turn. The option to straighten the leg rest so that you may keep your broken leg straight can help patients with promoting blood circulation.
The chair comes with safety features like anti-tippers, push-lock for tires and attendant hand brakes; however, you may want to separately install a seat belt and prop yourself up with a better seat cushion.
- Comes in four seat width models of 16, 18, 20 and 22 inches
- Leg rests come with padding for more comfort and they can be elevated also for
- Full length back rest and headrest for added comfort; you can recline your seat and take a short nap as well on your wheelchair.
- Easy to propel and manoeuvre with 24 inches rear tires
- Hand brake available for more control to attendant
- Wheels can be easily locked using the push-to-lock system
- Tall users should get a model with a wider seat, as the seat will also be deeper to accommodate longer body proportions. The 16 inch model would likely be too small and uncomfortable
- The wheelchair is not light due to extra length of backrest and headrest
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#6 – Invacare Tracer Manual Wheelchair (Model: SX5)
This wheelchair is one of the lightest at around 34 lbs with carrying capacity of 250 lbs. There are versions with up to 22-inch seating capacity; however, these models (20 and 22-inch seat) will not go through standard bathroom doorways.
Available in a wide variety of options; we recommend you go with the model which comes with padded leg rests due to the convenience it provides to users with a broken leg.
While the chair is strong and sturdy, it is a basic model that does not come with the safety features of a seat belt, attendant hand brakes or anti-tippers. Considering this and the fact that you are likely to have to expand your budget to install these, the chair is priced aggressively at just under 300 dollars.
Having said that, the seat height adjustability and the option to change the angle of the leg rests allow you to regularly alter your sitting posture or gait, thereby allowing for a more comfortable experience.
- Easy to fold and unfold and lightweight
- Comes in four seat widths from 16 – 22 inches
- Adjustable seat depth will allow addition of extra back rest cushioning or will be helpful in maintaining proper posture if you are taller than six feet
- More expensive models have calf muscle supports
- The total width of the 20-inch seat width model is 26 inches, making it a good candidate to go through all doorways of your home.
- Seating may not be comfortable for long use. You may like to budget for extra cushions
- Due to lack of good suspension under the seat, ride quality may not be great on very rough surfaces
#7 – Drive Medical Silver Sport Self-Propelled Wheelchair
This is a basic wheelchair by popular mobility aid manufacturer, Drive Medical, with a powder coated silver vein steel frame with nylon upholstery, which makes it a durable and lightweight device. It weighs around 40 lbs and can carry up to 250 lbs.
Priced to be light on your wallet, this wheelchair is meant for light use and is a perfect candidate for you if you do not anticipate long rides on it.
Alternately, you can decide to purchase this and install some necessities like the calf-pads, seat bet, and anti-tipper wheels, even after which you may end up paying a combined amount that is less than a lot of wheelchairs available in the market.
The cost-effectiveness of it makes this a good candidate for short term use, which is likely to be the case if you are going to discontinue using it after your leg heals.
The chair is one of the narrowest chairs available and you will find it easy to go through all kinds of doorways, even the non-standard narrower ones.
- Overall width of the chair is 24 inches, which makes it easy to drive through doorways
- The device has push-to-lock wheel locks
- Full length padded arm rest provide comfort and helps distribute body weight away from the broken leg
- Easy to fold and store in car trunks
- Good value for money
- Not suitable for taller users, with seat depth of 15.75 inches
- No leg rest or calf padding on the footrests
- No handbrake for an attendant
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Frequently Asked Questions
Q. How is a broken leg diagnosed?
A doctor can inspect the affected area of the leg and detect for tenderness, swelling, deformity, or a wound that is open. An X-ray can be subsequently done to locate the area of breakage and determine whether any adjacent joints have been injured as well. More detailed inspection can be done by scanning via computerized tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
Q. How is a broken leg treated?
Treatment for an will vary depending on the type of and breakage. Generally, the is held together with a splint to allow for swelling to subside, and if it is a displaced , the doctor may need to maneuver the pieces back to their original alignment first.
Once the swelling has subsided, which can take around a day, the is immobilized via a cast or another splint to allow the to heal. The patient may need to use crutches or a cane to keep weight off the injured leg for a few weeks to a few months. This is also where a can come in. Those with more severe injuries or need to move around a lot may opt for a .
The rest of treatment consists of medications to reduce pain and inflammation, a to promote rehabilitation of the recovering . to assist in healing if immobilized is insufficient, and therapy with
Q. What Other Mobility Devices Can You Use with a Broken Leg?
Depending upon the affected broken bone in your leg, a different mobility device may be better suited for you, other than the wheelchair. If you have suffered from an ankle fracture, your physician will most likely advise you to keep the ankle bone facing upwards to quicken the healing process.
You can support your affected leg, bent at the knee with the ankle facing upwards, on the seat of the knee scooter and propel it using your other leg, thereby restoring your mobility.
Another option may be a hands-free crutch, but comfort-wise, a knee scooter is much better.
Q. How long might I need to use a wheelchair or mobility device for?
A may require you to isolate and keep weight off of a for a few weeks to a few months. More severe breaks may require use for longer, though immobilization, (if necessary), and adequate rehabilitation with a is typically sufficient to promote healing in shorter a time.
Q. How much does a wheelchair cost?
A wheelchair typically costs anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars depending on the brand name, build quality, and features included with the chair.
Q. Is a wheelchair covered by health insurance?
Please see here for information about the insurance coverage of wheelchairs by Medicare in the United States.
Q. Can I make my wheelchair seat more comfortable?
Some wheelchairs come with thin and potentially insufficient cushioning, which is where specialized cushions come in. See our articles about Best Wheelchair Cushions for Elderly, Best Car Seat Cushion for Sciatica, and Best Coccyx Cushions for Tailbone Pain for some selections of the best seat cushions you can add on to your wheelchair seat.
Parting Words – A Comfortable Ride Whilst You Recover
With good research and careful selection, you can have yourself a comfortable and reliable wheelchair for your recovery while your broken leg heals. The sooner you recover, the sooner you can get back to doing the physical activities you love.
Our favourite wheelchair is the Medline Self-Propelled Wheelchair for its high weight capacity, sizing options, and full size armrests, all at a reasonable price.
The Healthline Lightweight Self-Propelled is our favourite value-for-money option, with great calf padding on its that can rise up to keep your legs straight while seated.
A sedentary lifestyle for 3 – 4 months can not only have unwanted impacts on your health, it can also lead to stretching of your recovery time. Even if you are more mobile on your wheelchair, it is best that you use crutches as well, if you can, for part of the day. Use your wheelchair mainly to get some fresh air outside the house.