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  • Writer's pictureDr. Terrell Joseph

How Long Does It Take To Recover From a Broken Collarbone?

Updated: Sep 2, 2022

Broken Collarbones Are Common in Mountain Bikers

With hundreds of world-class mountain bike trails spanning Eagle and Summit Counties, it's no surprise that Dr. Joseph, the leading shoulder surgeon for Vail-Summit Orthopaedics & Neurology, sees many patients with cycling-related injuries during the summer months.

In this blog post, we'll discuss one of the most common injuries in mountain biking a broken collarbone and when you can expect to be back in the saddle.

How Do You Break Your Collarbone?

The collarbone (or clavicle) is a thin bone that runs from your shoulder to your breastbone.

Broken collarbones are often caused by falling from a significant height or onto a hard surface. This type of fall usually results in an outstretched arm, which takes the brunt of the impact.

This type of injury is common in sports where you're at risk of falls like:

  • Mountain biking

  • Snowboarding

  • Skateboarding

They can also happen in sports like football or lacrosse, where athletes are prone to a direct hit to the shoulder.

What Does a Broken Collarbone Feel Like

When the clavicle is fractured, it's often apparent. Symptoms may include:

  • Pain at the site of the injury

  • A bulge under your skin

  • Swelling and bruising

  • Worsening pain and/or grinding when you move your arm

  • A downward and forward sag in your shoulder

If you suspect a fractured clavicle, see an orthopaedic physician immediately. Although most fractures will heal well with conservative measures, if the fracture is not diagnosed and treated appropriately, the bones may not heal correctly, leading to lasting problems.

How Is a Broken Collarbone Treated?

Broken clavicle or broken collarbone

Treatments for a broken collarbone include nonsurgical and surgical methods. Dr. Joseph will recommend a treatment plan based on the severity of the injury.

If there is only one break and the end of your bones are still aligned, then conservative treatment measures may be all that is needed to allow the bone to heal. These may include:

  • A sling to restrict movement —- this is critical to your recovery!

  • Over-the-counter pain medication

  • Icing to reduce inflammation

  • Physical therapy to reduce stiffness in your shoulder joint

Surgery may be necessary if the bone is severely displaced or is in several pieces. Surgical treatment usually involves placing fixation devices — such as plates, screws, or rods — to stabilize the bones properly while healing. Read more about surgery for broken collarbones.

How Long Does It Take To Recover From a Broken Collarbone?

Arm in Sling

Although recovery times are different for everyone, most people with clavicle fractures with or without surgery will be able to return to their normal activities between 8-12 weeks. However, it can take several more months to regain full motion and strength.

During your recovery process, you'll continue to meet with Dr. Joseph and his team to ensure that your bone is healing correctly and determine when you can:

  • Stop using the sling or brace

  • Return to normal daily activities

  • Return to full participation in sports

Remember, when it comes to clavicle fractures, an accurate diagnosis and comprehensive treatment plan are crucial to getting you back to your singletrack adventures. The good news is that most patients fully recover without limitations after proper treatment.

Fractured Clavicle? Don't Wait! Contact Dr. Joseph Today

Dr. Joseph is a leading shoulder and orthopaedic trauma expert, practicing in three convenient locations throughout the Vail Valley and Summit County.

If you've experienced a clavicle fracture or want more information about the recovery process, contact Dr. Joseph today by calling (970) 476-7220. Same-day and urgent care spots are always available!

You can also schedule an appointment through Team Joseph's online appointment request form.

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