Broken Collarbone Risks for Mountain Bikers

Joseph A. Abboud, MD May 8th, 2019

Preventing Collarbone Fractures While Enjoying the Trails

A broken collarbone is a break in the clavicle, the bone in the upper chest that connects the breastbone to the shoulder blade. Although Rothman Orthopaedic Institute Shoulder and Elbow specialties offer the best orthopaedic care, it is best to avoid injury altogether if possible. We want to partner with you to help keep you safe on the trail.

What Causes A Broken Collarbone?

A broken collarbone can occur in several ways, but the most common involves some kind of trauma, such as falling, or involvement in an accident.  A suspected broken collarbone should be examined by a healthcare professional.

A very common shoulder injury in mountain bikers, broken collarbones usually occur during a downhill section. If the rider falls onto an outstretched hand, the force transmitted up the arm is often enough to cause this painful fracture.

What Can You Do to Prevent a Broken Collarbone?

  • Try not to fall! This is easier said than done, as mountain bikers tend to take risks on the trail. If the front wheel comes to an abrupt halt, the rider typically goes over the handlebars. Keep in mind that this is more likely to happen on a descent, because you will be moving faster and you are tilted forward.

  • Be aware of your surroundings!!! Look out for rocks and tree stumps as these are the obstacles that often cause a sudden stop.

  • Make sure that your pedals are level, with your weight distributed evenly between left and right pedal. If you are unbalanced while riding then you will be more likely to go over the handlebars.

  • Careful when riding on wet surfaces as this can make turns particularly treacherous.

Symptoms Of A Broken Collarbone

Despite your best efforts, you may experience a fall during your mountain biking pursuits. What are the symptoms of a broken collarbone?

A broken collarbone or clavicle fracture can be very painful and may make it hard to move your arm. Other signs and symptoms of a fracture may include:

  • Sagging of the shoulder downward and forward

  • Inability to lift the arm because of pain

  • A grinding sensation when you try to raise the arm

  • Bruising, swelling, and/or tenderness over the collarbone

As mentioned above, this is a condition that needs to be addressed by a qualified medical professional, specifically, an orthopaedic specialist. Not doing this could lead to the complication of having a broken collarbone that has not healed properly.

What Should I Expect From My Doctor?

During the physical exam, your doctor will inspect the affected area for tenderness, swelling, or an open wound. X-rays will likely be performed to determine the extent of the broken collarbone and pinpoint its location. Your doctor might also recommend a CT scan to get more-detailed images of the shoulder joint.

Treatment Of A Broken Collarbone

Broken collarbone treatment will be determined by the extent of your injuries. The following is a general outline of what you can expect during the course of your treatment.

  • Immobilization: Restricting the movement of any broken bone is critical to healing. To immobilize a broken collarbone, you'll likely need to wear an arm sling. How long immobilization is needed depends on the severity of the injury.

  • Medications: To reduce pain and inflammation, your doctor might recommend an over-the-counter pain reliever. If you have severe pain, you might need a prescription medication for a few days.

  • Therapy: Rehabilitation begins soon after initial treatment. In most cases, it's important to begin some motion to minimize stiffness in your shoulder while you are still wearing your sling.This should only be done under the direction of you doctor or therapist. After your sling is removed, your doctor might recommend additional rehabilitation exercises or physical therapy to restore muscle strength, joint motion and flexibility.

  • Surgery: Surgery might be required if the fractured collarbone has broken through your skin, is severely displaced or is in several pieces.

If you or a loved one need care for a broken collarbone please contact Rothman Orthopaedic Institute. To learn more or to schedule an examination, please visit us here or contact us at 1-800-321-9999.

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