Just the thought of broken collarbones is enough for most cyclists to go the extra mile and add more items to their safety gear. Turns out an alarming number of cyclists do suffer from broken collarbones at least once during their cycling careers. In fact, Ben Day from the Fly V Australia-Successful Living Team strongly feels that ‘If you haven’t broken your collarbone, you haven’t ridden long enough.’ Believe it or not but for the cycling community at large, a broken collarbone is almost like a rite of passage!
Nevertheless, a broken collarbone is anything but a pleasant experience. While it will definitely give you a lot to talk about when you make your comeback, the recovery period must not be taken lightly. Osteopath Dr. Dominic Briscomb has spent a sizeable chunk of his career dealing with injured cyclists. His valuable insight will help you identify the best treatment for broken collarbones. Follow his advice and you will soon be strong enough to compete in the next big event!
The Saga of the Broken Collarbone
The most immediate consequence of a crash is that the cyclist is violently thrown out off the seat due to the force of the impact. The brunt of the crash is borne by the shoulder, elbow or wrist. The collarbone is one of the most vulnerable bones in the human body. So when you hit the ground, the raw force of the collision is transmitted up to the collarbone which is unable to withstand the pressure.
Cycling encourages excessive usage of the lower body. As a result, cyclists are well equipped with a strong, muscled, and toned lower body while their upper bodies are generally weaker in comparison. The force of a collision is enough to cause considerable damage to this largely neglected part of a cyclist’s body.
Even if a broken collarbone is considered to be somewhat like a rite of passage among cyclists, it’s definitely not something that any cyclist would actively wish for! The good news is that a broken collarbone will not drastically affect your cycling season, nor will it cause any long term damage. Broken collarbones can be repaired fairly quickly! In fact, Tyler Hamilton continued to compete in the Tour De France in 2003 despite a broken collarbone. Cyclists have what it takes to fight back! You can do it!
The Treatment Plan
Given how coolly some cyclists talk about broken collarbones, you would think that this injury is about as painful as getting a minor cut. This is exactly what Lance Armstrong used to think, until he himself suffered from a broken collarbone in 2009. In an interview for La GazzettaDello Sport, Armstrong exclaimed, ‘It’s the first time in my career that I fractured my collarbone, and I can tell you it hurts a lot!’
There are two basic treatments for broke collarbones. One form of treatment minimizes the pain but makes the collarbone vulnerable to further damage. The other method depends on natural healing and is considerably more painful. Your orthopedic consultant will assess the extent of your injury before choosing the best treatment for broken collarbone for your particular case!
Healing, The Natural Way
Your X-Ray results are the best indication of the state of your collarbone after the crash. If your collarbone has suffered from a clean break your doctor will recommend that you allow the injury to heal in its own time.
Over the next few weeks, your body will rebuild the broken collarbone. You will most likely have to wear an arm sling to immobilize the collarbone. This recovery process will seem like a hassle and there will be times when your frustration will hit the roof. At times like these remember that if you hop onto your cycle and start riding before your broken collarbone has healed entirely, you are setting the stage for more pain and injuries. Why slow down the recovery process when you can wait a few more days and resume your cycling season with renewed vigor?
Recovery through Surgery
If your collarbone is shattered or broken from more than one place, your doctor will most likely recommend surgery. This is because the broken pieces of bone can damage nearby blood vessels and nerves. A metal plate is crewed onto the broken collarbone to facilitate the recovery process. Having a metal plate screwed onto the collarbone isn’t everybody’s idea of the best treatment. But doctors have a few solid reasons for classifying this as one of the best treatments for broken collarbones:
- It maintains the original length of the bone. When shattered bones heal, they can be shorter than their original length. This can lead to several health complications later.
- It holds the shape of the collarbone. The metal plate prevents the broken bone from damaging the surrounding area.
If you are a pro cyclist and simply cannot afford to wait for the natural healing cycle to finish its course, your doctors might make an exception for you and sign you up for a surgery. Surgery cuts down the recovery time by half and enables the cyclist to hit the cycling track in 4 weeks!
A broken collarbone is not likely to hamper your career if you give your body enough recovery time. Be wary of post surgery infections. Ignoring the telltale signs of an infection can translate into a serious health complication! Don’t risk it. Your cycling season is dependent on your health and fitness. It is best to stay off the cycling track until your doctor gives you the green light!