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Cycling Injuries: Collar Bone Fractures (Steps to Ensure Complete Recovery)

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If there is one ailment that most cyclists have witnessed, it is a collarbone (also known as clavicle) fracture. Since cyclists happen to fall directly on shoulder level, they suffer from clavicle fractures very commonly. The S-shaped structure of the bone makes it more fragile and likely to break when a cyclist falls with impact on the shoulder blade. But unlike fractures of other bones in the body, broken collarbone recovery is usually fast and complete. We'll tell you all you need to know about clavicle bone fracture- signs and symptoms of a collarbone fracture, treatment, and clavicle fracture exercises for recovery.

The collarbone is located in between the ribcage and the shoulder blade. In other words, the clavicle is the connecting bridge between the arms and the body. Even though there are many important nerves and blood vessels around the clavicle, a collarbone fracture seldom results in an injury to these nerves. Most clavicle fractures do not need any medical intervention for healing. They can be fully healed just by using a sling to restrict the movement of your affected arm. Some clavicle fractures, however, necessitate immediate surgery because of the more serious break in the bone and dislodgement of the broken pieces.

Read the article Common Cycling Injuries: How to Prevent and Treat Them

Broken Collarbone Symptoms

So, you fell down from your bicycle when you were trying to rail a berm or you pulled the brakes too fast. If the shoulders were directly impacted upon falling, you should look for the following signs:

Stiffness and Pain

If you experience a stiff shoulder and are unable to move it freely after your fall, it is possible that your collarbone has been broken. The pain in the area will increase gradually, and worsen if you try to move the shoulder.

Bulges and Bruises

Another signal of a broken clavicle is the appearance of bulges and bruises at the site of impact when you fell from your bicycle. This happens because the broken pieces of the collarbone tend to push closer to the skin surface. The bruise forms because of the physical impact of the fall on the ground.

bulges
Bulges on the skin are common signs of collarbone injury

Slumpy Shoulder

If the fracture happens towards one of the two ends of the clavicle, the affected shoulder will slump downwards. This sump will also be accompanied by pain and swelling.

Grinding

Sometimes, the fractures clavicle entraps some air at the site of the fracture. This air causes the gritty feeling when you try to move your affected shoulder or arm. This is a sure shot sign of a fracture.

If you notice one or all of the above signs, chances are that your clavicle has fractured after falling from your bicycle. But there is no need to panic. A majority of clavicle bone fractures tends to heal completely and the person is back in action in a few months.

What to Do If You Suspect a Collarbone Fracture

injuring your clavicle
A common biking accident can injure the collarbone

Rushing to the nearest medical unit is recommended. An early examination will reveal the severity of bone damage. Also, the doctor will be able to assess whether the adjoining blood vessels or nerves have been damaged or not. The diagnosis will be based on the X ray report of the shoulder and will determine the next steps.

Most of the clavicle fractures are left to heal on their own, using a sling. Infact, for a broken collarbone, sling is the easiest and most common recovery option. Some more severe fractures may require a broken collarbone surgery to align the bone correctly or to bring together the broken pieces of the bone.

How to Heal a Broken Collarbone Faster

  • As the fracture starts to heal, many cyclists observe a small bump on the surface, right above the injury site. It is a completely normal step of recovery and happens because of callus formation around the internal wound.

  • You will be prescribed some pain killer medication, but these should only be taken as per the advice of the doctor. Misuse or over use of these medications may actually hamper your recovery.

  • You must refrain from wearing rings on your fingers until the broken collarbone recovery is complete.

  • Once the doctor gives you green signal for light shoulder movements, you will be asked to do gentle exercises to facilitate recovery of the broken collarbone.

  • Gradually, you will be asked to increase the activities with the affected arm and shoulder. If you feel pain at any stage, you should immediately bring this to the doctor’s notice.

clavicle brace
Clavicle brace for healing

With due care and complete adherence to the doctor’s instructions, broken collarbone recovery rate is astonishingly high. Typical broken collarbone recovery time in adults ranges from ten to twelve weeks if there is no surgical intervention. However, recovery is much faster in younger people and children.

If you get rid of the pain and swelling during recovery, you should still take it easy before rushing into full-fledged workout. If you start exerting your collar bone before it heals fully, you increase the chances of it breaking again.

When Should You Consult the Doctor Again

If, during the course of recovery, you notice any of the following symptoms, then you should all the doctor and fix the next available appointment:

  • The pain in your arms doesn’t go away or is worsened.

  • The fingers of the arm are stiff and you cannot move them easily.

  • Your arm or fingers of the affected arm feel numb or you have a pricking sensation in these areas.

  • The arm or fingers get pale or bluish.

  • The shoulder shows a sharp bump that doesn’t go away or reduce in a few days.

Final Words About Collarbone Fractures

It is important to remember that fractures of the collarbone are mostly accidental. Hence, there is nothing you can do to avoid them during cycling. If you happen to fall from your bicycle directly on your shoulder level, a collar bone fracture is likely. However, you may try to minimise falling by being more careful and remembering the basics of cycling.

broken collar bone injury
Take precautions while riding your bike

It is important to keep in mind that most cases of collarbone fracture do not require a surgical intervention. Upon the X-ray scan, the doctor will clearly see the severity and alignment of the broken bone. A majority of cases of fractured collarbone get back to normal by healing naturally. It is to be noted that natural healing does not affect future athletic performance. Also, it does not increase the likelihood of the fracture happening again.

If you fall down on your shoulder during your cycling session, you should immediately see a doctor and get an X-ray of the shoulders done. Once the doctor confirms the collarbone fracture and suggests the next steps, following those is the best way to your recovery. Have you suffered a collarbone fracture? How did it heal? We would like to know your experience.

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