It is quite extraordinary to me as to how many people have never heard of a knee scooter, and confine themselves to weeks of “crutching” around after a leg injury.
Make sure to also read my page on knee scooter reviews.
For the first three days after my right foot was put into a splint, I was on crutches given to me by my doctor. Although I enjoyed seeing my upper body strength increase in just three days, I was not pleased at the thought of several months of using crutches to get everywhere. Living in rainy often hilly Seattle, I was a bit nervous using crutches.
I was tentative just getting up and down two steps outside my ground floor apartment. Crossing (or, to be precise, jaywalking) the very busy road outside my apartment complex on crutches to get to the neighborhood Walgreens was especially intimidating, particularly when it was raining. I even fell one time, but luckily avoided putting full pressure on my bad leg.
While at the grocery store (a friend took me there in a car) on my first night on crutches, I used their three-wheeled battery powered electric scooter for the first time in my life and it was a blast! I decided to do some research on whether I could get one of those for my apartment. I had some doubts about parking an electric scooter outdoors in the rain and even getting that large thing down the two steps and into or next to my apartment.
Knee Scooter vs. Crutches
Luckily, I instead stumbled upon a website of a local knee scooter rental company. A “knee scooter” is also known as “knee trolley” or “knee walker” and is much smaller than an electric scooter. The company I found rented out these knee scooters for $25 a week and even delivered them for a small fee. I called them and they had one last one left. Within an hour the scooter was delivered to me and the company owner showed me how to adjust it and use it going up and down on steps.
In the following weeks, the knee scooter improved my life beyond imagination in comparison to crutches during the seven weeks that I kept it while my right foot was non-weight bearing in a splint, followed by cast, followed by long boot. Later on I re-ruptured my achilles tendon (see My Achilles Tendon Rupture for my story) and had to rent the knee scooter again! I wish I had just purchased a new one right from the get go or tried to buy a used knee scooter.
Virtually every single task I can think of was easier on a knee scooter than on crutches. Whether it was bringing a cup of tea from the kitchen to my desk; or crossing the street; or getting into a bus (all my local ones can hydraulically lean to align with the sidewalk and have ramps for those on wheels); or getting off into a passenger car seat and having the driver store the partially foldable scooter in the trunk; or even going up and down steps (yes the scooter is surprisingly easy to maneuver over steps even if that does not make immediate sense).
The best part is that on flat surfaces indoors, the knee scooter is a lot faster than regular humans and requires minimal pushing effort on the part of your undamaged foot. The scooter I used (photo below) was extremely easy to maneuver as far as making turns, braking, lifting up the front end and doing a 180 degree turn to change directions, and even going reverse.
The only difficult part of using a knee scooter is going uphill and braking on steeper slopes. I would advise avoiding very steep slopes so as to not risk re-damaging your bad foot, or damaging your good foot. Finally, you can even sit on the very stable scooter once the brakes are on. It is extremely steady. I used to play chess at my local mall while sitting on the scooter. In buses, once the scooter brakes are on (levers pushed down), it will not slide or roll at all when the driver brakes suddenly or makes sharp turns.
On the (manual/non-motorized, non-seated) knee scooter shown at the end of this page, I could very easily “scoot” 4-5 miles in a day by myself since my left undamaged foot was fairly strong. If you live in a mostly flat city, you could travel even further every day without needing a bus. On crutches, walking just 200 meters required significant exertion and risk tolerance if crossing a road.
If you ever have the misfortune of getting one leg in a cast, as long as your other leg is healthy, using crutches does not make any sense at all. In fact if I was doing this all over again, I would purchase a knee scooter rather than rent one. Note that I did not try seated or motorized knee scooters. Perhaps those are even easier to use than what I had.
One thing I realized after my injury was that the knee scooter is probably not used by a majority of people who rupture their achilles tendon. Either they:
- Use crutches (and that is what my doctor gave me) due to lack of knowing any better.
- Or they mostly stay home out of fear and only walk out in aircast or other types of boots after a few weeks of immobilization and partial weight bearing.
- Or their good leg is not so good and can’t push off the ground with significant strength.
- Or their bad leg also has knee issues preventing bending and resting on the scooter.
- Or they are risk averse to the potential of losing control of the knee scooter, especially on slopes or wet and snowy weather.
I was nervous at times and even had several crazy accidents, but I just could not bear to stay indoors all day, and I did certainly not want to “crutch” around too far from home. While on my scooter, I met a few people who recently went through what I was going through, and several expressed surprise at the availability of a knee scooter.
Seems like too many doctors do not know about this option or do not recommend it and assume crutch usage to be less of a hindrance than I found. I do now have much greater respect for people who suffered from such injuries many decades ago and had no access to scooters, buses with ramps, and general handicap friendly buildings and roads like they do today.
One thing I wonder about is how bending my bad leg and putting it on the scooter affected my recovery and my overall bad leg muscle/tissue/tendon/ligament/bone structure in comparison to if I had just used crutches and as a result also gone out much less? I definitely saw significant calf muscle atrophy, so bending your bed leg on a knee scooter for hours per day does not seem to reduce calf muscle atrophy in any way like I was really hoping.