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Broken collarbone: recovery tips

 

   


noahman

Aug 13, 12 7:23

Post #1 of 21 (5002 views)
Broken collarbone: recovery tips Quote | Reply

Well I crashed hard on the bike yesterday & broke my collarbone. I was only 4 weeks out from race day at IMWI, so that's a huge disappointment. Anyway since it's such a common bike injury, I was looking for tips & experiences of people who have been through it. First decision is surgery or not - I'll consult with my doctor on that. Beyond that, any ideas on what to do to stay on some semblance of shape during the recovery (while in a sling)? I'll take some time totally off now, bit do want to look forward. Anyway, if you've been through this tell me about your experience.


mlm

Aug 13, 12 7:52

Post #2 of 21 (4988 views)
Re: Broken collarbone: recovery tips [noahman] [In reply to] Quote | Reply

I broke my collarbone 6 weeks ago yesterday. It was broken in three pieces and the main 2 pieces were 200% displaced so I had to have surgery. The surgery involved a plate and 10 screws. For three weeks I was in a sling night and day but could ride the trainer if I could do it with the sling. After 3 weeks I no longer had to wear the sling and can move my arm as much as I want run, and ride my bike outside but I am restricted to lifting only one pound it it until I am six weeks out of surgery. He said I can swim but I am not much of a swimmer so I did not even pay attention. I'll be 5 weeks out of surgery on Wednesday and I am feeling great now but the first 3 weeks with the sling were terrible.


(This post was edited by mlm on Aug 13, 12 7:52)


Brian in MA

Aug 13, 12 8:38

Post #3 of 21 (4969 views)
Re: Broken collarbone: recovery tips [noahman] [In reply to] Quote | Reply

Depending on what your doc says as far as surgery, you may be able to ride on the trainer if you can do so comfortably. Mine required surgery so it was that and lots of long walks until I was given the OK to get back in the pool six weeks later. Swimming ultimately proved to be the best PT for me as far as regaining range of motion, specifically Doug Stern's sewing maching drill (found in the ST archives). Hope this helps, good luck!


"You can never win or lose if you don't run the race." - Richard Butler



trimess

Aug 13, 12 8:47

Post #4 of 21 (4959 views)
Re: Broken collarbone: recovery tips [noahman] [In reply to] Quote | Reply

enjoy the time off. Broke mine in Feb. Got surgery (titanium rod inside the bone, you should ask about it, as it doesn't protrude out like the plate), just walks the first 3-4 weeks. Then light trainer rides, then got to run at about 6 weeks or so. I wasn't in a huge rush, it's better to let it heal correctly than tweak it by working out too early. Took about 3 month before I was back to rock climbing though. Even now, it's still stiff a lot of time.
Just take it slow.


sxevegan

Aug 13, 12 8:51

Post #5 of 21 (4957 views)
Re: Broken collarbone: recovery tips [noahman] [In reply to] Quote | Reply

I broke mine on July 12th. It was only broken in one spot, and it didn't look very displaced. I'm 28 years old, and the doctor said it would heal fine on its own. He put my in a sling but told me the sling was only for my comfort and wouldn't really help the healing. He told me as soon as I felt ready to take it off, I could.

I used it for about a week and then slept in it for the next week or so to keep myself from rolling on my side.

About 8 or 9 days after my crash I was riding the trainer in the sling. A few days later when I felt like I could reach my handlebars I was on the trainer without the sling. When I felt like I could grab my brakes and shift I tried to ride outside. That didn't work too well since the shock from hitting each bump didn't feel that great. On July 28th (a little over 2 weeks) I did a 50+ mile ride outside and it didn't feel bad as long as I stayed in my saddle. This weekend I was finally able to climb out of my saddle and pull up on my bars a bit.


amagangan

Aug 13, 12 9:08

Post #6 of 21 (4947 views)
Re: Broken collarbone: recovery tips [noahman] [In reply to] Quote | Reply

I've broken my collarbone 6 times (all before my triathlon days though). Each time it's taken a full 6 weeks to heal and there is no ways I could have ridden outside until then. Any minor bump feels like a sharp electric shock. I have no idea how people ride a bike after just a few weeks, I couldn't even do stuff like feed myself with a spoon. There is no way I would have been able to run or swim during that recovery period. Based on the other answers I see here, it seems to be different for others... so I would just see how it goes.

I could probably have ridden a trainer during recovery but not much else. I think you can turn this into an advantage. I broke my ribs 5 weeks before my last ironman, all I could do was ride indoors, and all the trainer time really paid off - I had my best bike split ever, and a good run despite minimal training. My swim sucked ;-)


Shelly123

Aug 13, 12 9:50

Post #7 of 21 (4927 views)
Re: Broken collarbone: recovery tips [amagangan] [In reply to] Quote | Reply

I broke my collarbone 4.5 weeks from IMLP.. I rode on the trainer (upright) about 4 days after the crash.. I biked outside for the first time, I think, 2 weeks later. I also swam about 2.5 weeks after the crash. My break didn't require surgery (at the time), and I completed the Ironman, but it is still broken. At this point I am not going to change anything as I have no pain, but it does make me wonder if it would have healed if I rested more.

I found the aero position to be extremely comfortable post-crash. No pain whatsoever.
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rkwaki

Aug 13, 12 9:54

Post #8 of 21 (4921 views)
Re: Broken collarbone: recovery tips [noahman] [In reply to] Quote | Reply

My experience has been to have a focus in the weight room to strengthen the surrounding muscles. I have found that the added strength helps to keep things set.


Rockmoore

Aug 13, 12 10:05

Post #9 of 21 (4909 views)
Re: Broken collarbone: recovery tips [noahman] [In reply to] Quote | Reply

I broke mine in 3 places and had a plate put in. I was back on the bike 2 weeks later full steam. You can go 2 different ways. To get cut on or not. Your recovery time will be faster with surgery.


JKN2001

Aug 13, 12 10:13

Post #10 of 21 (4902 views)
Re: Broken collarbone: recovery tips [noahman] [In reply to] Quote | Reply

A couple of people have mentioned to work on your range of motion as soon as possible for your shoulder. Great advice. Build up the surrounding small muscles and your shoulder will do much better, i.e., not atrophy.


dano-oly

Aug 13, 12 11:31

Post #11 of 21 (4886 views)
Re: Broken collarbone: recovery tips [JKN2001] [In reply to] Quote | Reply

Sorry to hear about your break! Broke mine on May 26 (along with 4 ribs). It was a clean break, so no surgery. Started on the recumbent trainer at the gym after 11 days and swimming after 17 days. The swimming hurt and I didn't overdo it; I think it helped with recovery. My doc had me doing range-of-motion exercises from the beginning. Did my 1st easy jogging after 3.5 weeks.

Thought I'd miss IMC, but was able to jump back into my training plan fully after 6 weeks. Definitely lost some fitness, though....


trimess

Aug 13, 12 13:52

Post #12 of 21 (4857 views)
Re: Broken collarbone: recovery tips [amagangan] [In reply to] Quote | Reply

I'm with you Amag, guess it goes to show how every break is totally different and people should listen to their doctors and not advice on an internet forum.
My break was in two spots with a 5 centimeter gap between bones on the top break (compression as I landed directly on my shoulder versus the normal "I put my hand out when I hit the ground" breaks that are more common). There really was no way I was not going to be recommended surgery.

To each his own. I just know that it was more important for me to have good use of my shoulder for the rest of my life than cut a few corners in healing. Injuries like that you have to think big picture.


h2ofun

Aug 13, 12 14:26

Post #13 of 21 (4843 views)
Re: Broken collarbone: recovery tips [noahman] [In reply to] Quote | Reply

My experience. First, I did not rest at the beginning like I should have. After about 2 weeks, I got back on the trainer since I could not put pressure on the bars. I started to do water swimming.
And I did a lot of DDR with my wife. Then it was just let it heal. Broke it at Vineman in July, did my first race in October. (Sure hurt for a LONG time though)

No surgery.

.

.
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TriBiker

Aug 13, 12 16:09

Post #14 of 21 (4833 views)
Re: Broken collarbone: recovery tips [noahman] [In reply to] Quote | Reply

Broke mine on April 4 during a training ride crash. Your doc should be the final word. That said, doctors differ so there's nothing wrong with a second or third opinion. Unless a complicated break, surgery should be the last resort (most insurance companies will not cover a "non-union" until six months have passed). If you do entertain surgery, you want the surgeon who does this surgery routinely - don't be afraid to ask. Another option is an ultrasound device (Exogen 4000+ in my case) you self administer 20 minutes/day. While this can be expensive and evidence (and medical opinion) is divided on effectiveness, I think it's worth entertaining before surgery. My plan did not cover the $3000 cost. I was ready to pull the trigger on a ~$300 eBay purchase until I was able to buy one wholesale from a distributor. Is it a coincidence that my collarbone is finally showing signs of healing after about 20 sessions? Absolutely could be (and difficult to prove either way), but I'm not ready to stop the treatments, that's for sure. I was paranoid about disturbing the area, as it turns out probably overly concerned - to the detriment of the surrounding soft tissue which wants range of motion, strengthening, etc. Your sports doc is the guide of course, but these tissues need a gradual loading as determined by the speed of the healing of the bone. Last thing I can think of, as my doc put it: don't skimp on calcium rich foods. Best of luck to you. I hope you heal faster than I am.


MonkeyClaw

Aug 13, 12 17:21

Post #15 of 21 (4801 views)
Re: Broken collarbone: recovery tips [noahman] [In reply to] Quote | Reply

Broke mine last November. Every break is different, and the level of pain seems different for everyone too. My doctor gave me the option of surgery or not. I chose not. I haven't decided if it was the right choice. Everything has healed fine, though it took a while. A lot of healing time has to do with your age (how old are you?).

My doctor told me that my level of activity can be basically whatever I could stand, and to let pain be my guide. I was on the trainer two days after the break. I didn't run for another several weeks, and swimming was several more. Even then, it took me a while to really get back into swimming. As others mentioned, swimming was great PT for strength and ROM.

I ditched the sling for a 'figure 8' after a couple of weeks. The jury is out on them, but I found that I had much more use of my arm while it was healing and kept me from slumping too much. Being able to use my arm kept the shoulder mobile. I was skeptical but now I'm sold on them. I don't think it helps the healing time at all.

Enjoy the 'pit of despair'. If it's been broken a couple of days, you know what I mean!
---


noahman

Aug 14, 12 5:34

Post #16 of 21 (4747 views)
Re: Broken collarbone: recovery tips [noahman] [In reply to] Quote | Reply

Thanks to everybody who has responded. It's good to know that I should be able to resume some activity, especially the bike trainer, pretty soon. It really means the end of my tri season though, so there's no need to rush things, even if my desire to get back to it quickly is strong.

Of course the details of the breaks & severity differ a lot across cases. Mine (I'm 39 btw) is a middle third fracture with shortening (i.e. bones overlapped). From what I've read, surgery is unclear in these cases - depends on how much shortening there is. I'll have to see what the doc says.


nslckevin

Aug 14, 12 17:00

Post #17 of 21 (4713 views)
Re: Broken collarbone: recovery tips [noahman] [In reply to] Quote | Reply

noahman wrote:
Well I crashed hard on the bike yesterday & broke my collarbone. I was only 4 weeks out from race day at IMWI, so that's a huge disappointment. Anyway since it's such a common bike injury, I was looking for tips & experiences of people who have been through it. First decision is surgery or not - I'll consult with my doctor on that. Beyond that, any ideas on what to do to stay on some semblance of shape during the recovery (while in a sling)? I'll take some time totally off now, bit do want to look forward. Anyway, if you've been through this tell me about your experience.


Welcome to the club. I broke my right collar bone at the end of December and had surgery with a plate and 10 screws. I was riding a spin bike after about 6 days post crash, 4 days post surgery and back on my road bike on a trainer (with the bars raised pretty high) about four or five days later. The surgery made a HUGE difference. My overall comfort level was greatly improved right after the surgery. By two weeks I was doing my normal winter training routine of 1 hour w/ 2x20' @ Tempo on the trainer every day. 3x20' on the weekends. (Normally I would have been outside on the weekend.) I was able to gingerly stand up and by four weeks I felt like I could have rode outside just fine.

The catch is that the consequences of falling again are high. I stayed inside the full six weeks and didn't ride in groups for another month on my doctors suggestion. I didn't race until early April.

Then, just a bit over a week ago, I got caught in a pile up at a local crit. In the mele I got hit from behind as I was slowing to avoid the guys on the ground in front of me and thrown down on my other shoulder. This time it is a minor fracture of the left collar bone. No surgery required and it wouldn't help even if I got it. I missed one day on the trainer and that is because I didn't get my back up bike together and on the trainer until the afternoon and it was too hot in my garage. I flipped the stem up and rotated the bars up and was back into my winter training workout routine the next day. Master's nationals are 21 days from today, 29 days from my crash. We are accelerating getting back on the road for this one. I'll probably be outside in another week or two and will race the TT and road race at nationals. I'm going to skip the crit.

From my point of view, the key is the 2x20' intervals on the trainer. That is my normal winter training diet. It is not that hard physically once you get into it and the benefits are enormous. It's only an hour. Get on, get off, get it over with. To make it even easier I break it down like this:

10' warm up
20' @ tempo, but every 5 minutes I pop it up a couple of gears and stand to give my butt, legs and arms a short break.
5' easy
20' same as above
5' cool down

I'm never more than 5' from the next thing. It makes the workout very bite sized and easy to deal with mentally.

I'm not a fan of doing anything harder than that on the trainer. Tempo on the trainer gets to be pretty easy both physically and mentally. Threshold, VO2 max, etc. are MUCH harder on the trainer than the road. Since nationals are coming up I'm sucking it up and doing some VO2 work, but it's not that fun and the most I've done is 2x5' where as my normal VO2 workout on the road would be 6 or even occasionally 8x5' @ VO2 max. No way in hell I could do that on the trainer. And no way in hell I could do 2x20' @ Threshold on the trainer. I guess I could if my life depended on it, but it's not worth it to me.

Trust me. 2x20' @ tempo on the trainer is the shit that kills.

I just looked it up on Training Peaks. I did an FTP test on Feb. 16th (Surgery was Dec. 30). My result was only 6 watts off of my normal spring FTP, only 20 watts off of peak summer form FTP. 2x20' is the shit that kills.

BTW, I got the bone stimulator (Exogen as mentioned above) and I'm also taking calcium supplements (http://www.growbone.com/) to hopefully speed the healing. I did this for the previous break also. My insurance covered the surgery and most oft he cost of the bone stimulator. I think my co-pay was about $450. And hey, I got to use it again! Lucky me...

Good luck.
Kevin

(This post was edited by nslckevin on Aug 14, 12 17:09)


noahman

Aug 15, 12 6:49

Post #18 of 21 (4670 views)
Re: Broken collarbone: recovery tips [nslckevin] [In reply to] Quote | Reply

Thanks a lot for the very informative response. I'm still in a fair bit of pain & have yet to see the doc for my follow up, but am looking forward to getting back on my Computrainer.

Good to hear about your training plan too, since I have a hard time to HTFU and do 2 x 20' @ threshold, so I often end up doing tempo sets anyway. Well I'll have a long offseason now to build my FTP and come back stronger next year.


supersilly

Oct 2, 12 11:28

Post #19 of 21 (4333 views)
Re: Broken collarbone: recovery tips [noahman] [In reply to] Quote | Reply

hey everyone...I am adding on to this discussion now because I broke my collarbone 2 weeks ago. I don't think my break (hairline fracture) is too serious. After my crash, the 1st doctor to look at my xray said I didn't have a break, but then the radiologist said it was a hairline fracture. They said I don't need surgery and sent me home with a sling. I also had very little pain (I didn't take any painkillers) and after one day of long walking with my sling on, I started riding my trainer, not using my arms. I should mention I'm in the middle of training for an Ironman....and pretty serious about it, so I was very BUMMED (not to mention shaken up by the crash).

I've been able to ride my trainer everyday and just recorded my longest trainer ride to date (4.25 hrs), as my coach thinks I can still make a comeback for my Ironman race in Nov. (Florida). I also have been doing elliptical "run" workouts that do not bother my shoulder, but NO SWIMMING. Yesterday, I ran outside for the first time since my crash and was able to run well for over 2 hrs without pain to my shoulder. I obviously know my collarbone isn't healed, so I don't push it at all with my shoulder (i.e. no swimming at all yet).

What do you all think??? -- is it wishful thinking for me to believe I'll be able to do an Ironman race in a month? Or should I just give up on the idea? One of you said you finished your Ironman after you broke your collarbone and another of you said you gave up on the race. I've invested a ton of time AND MONEY training for this race....maybe you all can relate!


Meulen

Oct 2, 12 12:11

Post #20 of 21 (4313 views)
Re: Broken collarbone: recovery tips [supersilly] [In reply to] Quote | Reply

supersilly wrote:
hey everyone...I am adding on to this discussion now because I broke my collarbone 2 weeks ago. I don't think my break (hairline fracture) is too serious. After my crash, the 1st doctor to look at my xray said I didn't have a break, but then the radiologist said it was a hairline fracture. They said I don't need surgery and sent me home with a sling. I also had very little pain (I didn't take any painkillers) and after one day of long walking with my sling on, I started riding my trainer, not using my arms. I should mention I'm in the middle of training for an Ironman....and pretty serious about it, so I was very BUMMED (not to mention shaken up by the crash).

I've been able to ride my trainer everyday and just recorded my longest trainer ride to date (4.25 hrs), as my coach thinks I can still make a comeback for my Ironman race in Nov. (Florida). I also have been doing elliptical "run" workouts that do not bother my shoulder, but NO SWIMMING. Yesterday, I ran outside for the first time since my crash and was able to run well for over 2 hrs without pain to my shoulder. I obviously know my collarbone isn't healed, so I don't push it at all with my shoulder (i.e. no swimming at all yet).

What do you all think??? -- is it wishful thinking for me to believe I'll be able to do an Ironman race in a month? Or should I just give up on the idea? One of you said you finished your Ironman after you broke your collarbone and another of you said you gave up on the race. I've invested a ton of time AND MONEY training for this race....maybe you all can relate!

I broke mine at the end of May, hairline as well. I refused treatment as I didn't want anyone telling me I couldn't do the Racine 70.3 in July. :) Anyway, I took a few weeks off swimming and then started back gingerly. I had enough of a swim base that the time off didn't effect me much. It still hurt after my swims and hurt to do some day to day stuff. I kept running and biking through the whole thing and just dealt with the pain. I did Racine in July and actually had my best swim to date in triathlon. I have to admit the hardest part was putting on my wetsuit! After that the pain was "tolerable". 3 days after the race I went to the doctor. It was then I officially found out it was broken, but had since healed over. I then went to PT for it until last week, but I did re-injure it in late August. So it's now October and I'm finally 100%. I "think" had I gone and got PT sooner Racine would have been better, and it wouldn't have taken so long to be 100%, but I didn't have anyone tell me I couldn't do the race either. Tough call, which was right looking back.


I live my life one triathlon at a time, Nothing else matters.....
Follow me on twitter @BMeulen403


dano-oly

Oct 2, 12 16:53

Post #21 of 21 (4257 views)
Re: Broken collarbone: recovery tips [supersilly] [In reply to] Quote | Reply

supersilly wrote:
hey everyone...I am adding on to this discussion now because I broke my collarbone 2 weeks ago. I don't think my break (hairline fracture) is too serious. After my crash, the 1st doctor to look at my xray said I didn't have a break, but then the radiologist said it was a hairline fracture. They said I don't need surgery and sent me home with a sling. I also had very little pain (I didn't take any painkillers) and after one day of long walking with my sling on, I started riding my trainer, not using my arms. I should mention I'm in the middle of training for an Ironman....and pretty serious about it, so I was very BUMMED (not to mention shaken up by the crash).

I've been able to ride my trainer everyday and just recorded my longest trainer ride to date (4.25 hrs), as my coach thinks I can still make a comeback for my Ironman race in Nov. (Florida). I also have been doing elliptical "run" workouts that do not bother my shoulder, but NO SWIMMING. Yesterday, I ran outside for the first time since my crash and was able to run well for over 2 hrs without pain to my shoulder. I obviously know my collarbone isn't healed, so I don't push it at all with my shoulder (i.e. no swimming at all yet).

What do you all think??? -- is it wishful thinking for me to believe I'll be able to do an Ironman race in a month? Or should I just give up on the idea? One of you said you finished your Ironman after you broke your collarbone and another of you said you gave up on the race. I've invested a ton of time AND MONEY training for this race....maybe you all can relate!

I'm the guy did my IM 13 weeks after my break. Sounds like yours wasn't as serious, so I would say that you have a shot after 6.5 weeks based on your progress. I'd talk to your doc about it (and what the implications of rebreaking it might be.) I also think it's time for you to get back in the pool. If you're not already, you should be doing a lot of range of motion and strengthening exercises. Ask your doc or PT. GL for IM Florida!

   
 
 
 



Number of races this season
If you're going to race an Ironman or 70.3, how many triathlons beyond this do you intend to do this season (discounting any IM or 70.3 Worlds you might qualify for)?
Zero
1
2
3 or more
Not racing IM or 70.3 in 2014
Don't do triathlons
Not racing anything this year
Retired from racing