As lawyers that specialize in helping cyclists injured in accidents, we have represented our share of those who suffered broken collarbones. A broken collarbone (clavicle) is the most common cycling injury. If you ride long enough chances are you have broken your collarbone or know someone from your group that has.
Since a collarbone fracture is so common, here are some good things to know about the injury and your treatment options:
- The collarbone (clavicle) is one of the most fractured bones in the body.
- Symptoms of a broken collarbone include severe pain and swelling at the site of the fracture and with visible deformity in some cases.
- A clavicle fracture is diagnosed through a physical examination and X-rays.
- Clavicle fractures are classified into three types based on the location of the fracture:
- Near the sternum (least common)
- Near the AC joint (second most common)
- The middle of the bone between the sternum and AC joint (most common).
- Immobilization using a sling is often used to treat a clavicle fracture along with cold therapy and medication for pain relief.
- In most cases of a fractured collarbone, there are no limitations once the fracture heals.
Where is the Collarbone or Clavicle Bone?
The clavicle is the bone that connects the breastplate (sternum) to the shoulder.
The natural instinct when you are in a bicycle accident is to stick out your arm before hitting the ground. Unfortunately, any severe force on the shoulder, like falling on an outstretched arm, transfers enough force to fracture the clavicle.
How Do You Know If You Have A Clavicle Fracture?
The only way to know for sure if you have a clavicle fracture is with X-rays. You can suspect a fracture from pain and swelling, but the only definitive evidence comes from an X-Ray. Thus, if you think that your clavicle is broken, seek medical attention. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine Health Library, the best way to treat the injury until you can reach a physician or emergency facility is to immobilize the arm and shoulder by holding the arm close to the body with the other arm or in a sling. You should put ice on the injured area for 20 to 30 minutes at a time, making sure not to freeze the skin.
Pain medication such as Tylenol or over-the-counter nonsteroidal agents such as ibuprofen or naproxen (Advil or Aleve, for example) are acceptable. The only time you should not take medication is if there is a break in the skin over the fracture, which indicates that the ends of the bones may have punctured the skin(compound fracture). In that case, the fracture may need surgery to clean out any dirt or debris. Other indications of more severe injury include tingling, numbness, or weakness in the hand or arm. If the injury is near the sternum and you have shortness of breath or difficulty swallowing you should seek immediate medical attention.
Clavicle Fracture Treatment
Before treating the fracture an orthopedic surgeon will review the X-rays to determine if the clavicle is broken and where the fracture is located. Depending on the location of the fracture and the severity, treatment options will range from immobilization to surgery with a plate and screws.
Most fractures heal with immobilization with either a sling or a special bandage.
Can I ride My Bike While Waiting For My Fracture To Heal?
The easy answer is that there is no easy answer because every fracture is different and individuals heal differently. Variables include the location of the fracture, severity-whether surgery was required or not, the age of the patient, whether the patient is a smoker, and a host of other factors.
In general terms, the body begins to fill in the fracture within 14 days, so most doctors will tell you to remain sedentary during the first 2 weeks. Thereafter you can begin riding on a stationary bike indoors, and gauge your strength and pain from there to determine when you can go back outdoors.