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Broken Clavicle

post #1 of 27
Thread Starter 
I broke my clavicle into 4 pieces this past weekend.

Doctor #1 says he won't operate and to let it heal "naturally".

I am seeing doctor #2 tomorrow. My intent is to push him toward surgery.

Am I going to get in the game sooner if I get a plate put in?

Gimme feedback. I'm distraught.

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ October 22, 2001 03:32 PM: Message edited 1 time, by worldfishnski ]</font>
post #2 of 27


good luck and hang in...

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ October 22, 2001 03:38 PM: Message edited 1 time, by ryan ]</font>
post #3 of 27
Thread Starter 
I read the Johns Hopkins article earlier. It would seem that I have nothing to lose (in terms of the healing process) if I get surgery.

It is hard to articulate to these guys that I need to do all I can to ensure the speediest possible recovery.

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ October 22, 2001 03:43 PM: Message edited 1 time, by worldfishnski ]</font>
post #4 of 27
I am sorry you broke your clavicle, and hope that you are not experiencing too much pain!
There is nothing remotely fun about breaking a bone!

Ryan posted a good link to the Johns Hopkins website. Here is another link with lots of information you might find helpful as well.

While reducing a fracture with hardware CAN mean a quicker return to sports, there are also risks involved...including hardware failure, infection, the possibility of additional damage to the surrounding tissues and nerves, and many other things. I don't mean to sound down on hardware installation (being the beneficiary of much hardware myself), there is just much to consider along with your desire to get back out there!

It sounds like you are doing the right thing by seeking a second opinion. Hopefully with an orthopaedic surgeon who specializes in sports medicine?

The best advice I can offer you, is to learn as much as you can about your injury, ask lot's of questions, and when in doubt...get a second opinion!

BTW, how did you break your clavicle?

Good luck, and I hope you heal quickly!
post #5 of 27
My son(23)broke his collarbone back in May it was a bad break but it healed naturally in about 4 weeks and he was back riding motocross-the day he got back on his bike he took another fall but this time broke his tibia and fibula requiring a titanium rod and screws-it has been 4 months now and he is finally off his crutches-now if you were to ask him he would tell you that a broken collarbone is a peice of cake!! Don't go for surgery it's risky and invasive!! Terry
post #6 of 27
Thread Starter 
Pilot Error.

I was feeling great after doing a tough ramp on my bike. It was dusty and I was on trails I didn't know following closely to the guys in front of me. I was moving fast.

Two 2.5 foot logs appeared out of the dust in my path. I didn't see the way around them to the right. I locked up my brakes and did a couple flips and end up wedged against the logs.

I knew right away.

Anybody know a good orthopedic surgeon in Seattle who is inclined to do surgery?
post #7 of 27
Thread Starter 

Was your son's broken in several places?
post #8 of 27
I broke mine too way back when I was a teenager. It took about 4-5 weeks to heal. I don't even recall even having to even wear a shoulder sling. The clavicle wasn't 100% aligned during the healing process, as a result there were a few jagged edges which would sometime catch on a neck tendon when I try to throw a ball. With time the jagged edges smoothed over and I no longer have that problem. Surgery probably would have ensure correct alignment during healing.

If you broke your clavicle in 4 places, it sounds like a perfect candidate for surgery, as it would be tricky trying to keep 4 pieces of bone 100% aligned all the time during the healing process.

I also had a compound fracture of the tibia and fibia at the same time. It was a motorcycle accident. I wished they had used some plates pins to secure my leg an aligned position, because they had to rebreak my leg after about 4 weeks because it was out of alignment

Anyways, not to scare you. But I've never been a big advocate of surgery, but in some cases it's the better way to go. In your case it could be a big plus in both healing time and for proper clavicle alignment. Go seek a 2nd opinion before you make your decision.

Hope you get well soon. On the bright side of things, if you decide not to get surgery, you could be skiing by end of December which is still pretty early in the ski season. You would have been a lot worse off if you had broken it in Dec.
post #9 of 27
TCarey -

I have recently been through the locked IM Nail/Rod in the tibia (along with a plate and 6 screws in my fibula) after suffering compound tibia and severely comminuted (shattered) fibula fractures...skiing! It was NO fun!

I have broken other bones, but nothing ever hurt like my shattered leg! Anyway, it sounds like his healing is coming along well. It took me about 16 weeks to walk (ha) crutch free.

On the upside, I was able to get back out on the ski slopes in just under 7 months (with many caveats). I am hoping to be strong enough to do some racing again this season!

Worldfishnski -

Over the handlebars! That is essentially what I did when I broke my leg (the skiing version). I have never been so thankful for morphine!

I wish I knew an O.S. in Seattle! You might ask at a local gym, or Physical Therapy center. Also, just because someone has an affiliation with a professional sports team does not necessarily mean they are the best Doctor for you. Make sure you like the Doctor, and how he/she runs his/her clinic/practice, especially if you are going to have surgery!

Good luck to you! Let me know how things turn out! [img]smile.gif[/img]

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ October 22, 2001 05:46 PM: Message edited 2 times, by Serenity ]</font>
post #10 of 27
Worldfishnski -
Check out the guys at the UW medical center, I have been looking into them to fix my shoulder. My friend went there and everything he has said has been positive, they were on top of the rehab asap also.
Not too shure on a busted clavicle but might give am a look.
post #11 of 27
Visualize coming back better than ever. See it/live it everyday and it'll happen.
post #12 of 27
I've broken my right collar bone 3 different times. The first was in 7th grade at Sun Valley. The second was in 9th in a lacrosse game(I broke his rib ;^)). And the final time was my junior year of high school out at Jackson. It has dinally healed correctly...8 years after the fact.

The reason I broke it a few extra times(besides jumping off a 15 foot rock into 2 feet of pow whilst leaning WAY too far forward) was because after the first 1st time it didn't heal right. The second time a piece broke off, and healed in the shape of an ox yoke, with the opposite end resting in the middle.

The third and final time it snapped clean and healed with a gigantic calcium clump surrounding the area. It's still there, and is probably the strongest bone in my body now.

The first 2 weeks finding a comfortable sleeping position is tough. Sometimes you'll wake up in pain when you roll over onto it.

See a good bone specialist for your situation. As has been said before, with 4 bone fragments, a plate or screws(or whatever) may be the best option. Fortunately that bone is easily accessable through a thin piece of skin.

Heal time is usually around 5-8 weeks. Take a daily dose of calcium pills, and start rehabbing that portion of your body after 3-4 weeks.

And enjoy the percocets while they last...

Good luck and heal quickly. You'll be back by New Year's for sure.

post #13 of 27
I hate to be the bringer of bad tidings, but you may be out of commission for a while. I broke my clavicle (also while mt. biking) three years ago and it was the most painful goddamned thing I've ever experienced.

It took a good six weeks for me to be able to sleep more than three hours a night. I wasn't able to ride again for THREE months. I wouldn't wish this injury on anyone, and hope that you have better luck than me... but unless they've got some new method of fusing those bones together, you're going to sidelined for a couple months, at the least.
post #14 of 27
If you're going to have clavicle surgery (ORIF or open reduction and internal fixation is the techinical term) make sure you have it done by a orthopedic surgeon who has done many of them. The clavicle is not operated upon that often and most general orthopedist probably don't have that much experience doing them. A orthopedist who specializes in sports would probably have done more of them. I wouldn't recommend pushing your physician into doing anything. Physicians, especially surgeons, are a pretty strong willed bunch and don't like to be told how to practice. I would try to explain to him or her how you feel and what is most important to you concerning the healing period (ie speed, cosmesis, function, pain level, etc.). Then he or she can take that into consideration when determining the appropriate treatment recommendations. Remember, the main determining factor in deciding whether someone needs clavicle surgery after a fracture is the location of the fracture. Otherwise, the outcomes are pretty much equal. Best of luck!
post #15 of 27
Sorry to hear about your misfortune, WFnS...

Lawrence Snow in Renton was the Ortho who did my knee last Spring... he was recommended to me by a friend and proved to be excellent. Aside from doing the repairs, he has excellent "bedside manner" and will communicate with you about everything. He's at the Sports Medicine center.

Good luck! Hope your recovery goes well. :
post #16 of 27

Good luck on the recovery.

Every one is different so listen to your doctor and listen to your body. It will tell you if you are going too fast..
post #17 of 27
Sorry about your misfortune. I had a bad break of my clavicle last February (got run over by another skier). I was in Switzerland at the time (where they have some of the best fracture care in the world). I talked to 2 different surgeons there and a few of the orthopedic surgeons at the medical center where I work. Here's what I learned:

With my relatively bad break (I originally had a piece broken off and the two ends nearly pushing through the skin) I could have had surgery and been able to return to activity sooner. However the chances of having a non-union are greater with surgery. It seems that when they scrape the pereosteum it can have a negative effect on the natural healing process and can result in non-union. I was quoted a percentage of success in the high nineties for healing w/o surgery and only a 90% chance or less of success with surgery. Thus, surgery not only involves the normal risks (anethesia, infection, etc.) but a decreased chance of proper healing. Of course it may allow return to activity sooner in some cases depending on the type of break. In my case I had to sit out part of February, March, and April but got a chance to ski on a galcier in May to make up for the 3 ski trips I had to give up. It did take a long time for mine to heal and it still is improving some.

One of the surgeons in Switzerland had a great story about a bicycle racer on the Swiss national team. He busted his clavicle and had a plate put in so he could participate in an upcoming competition. He did get to compete but since that time he has had 3 additional surgeries in an attempt to get the clavilcle to properly heal.

Hopefully, this information will be of use in discussing your options with your surgeon and coming to the best decision for yourself.
post #18 of 27
Thread Starter 
Si (and anyone else who cares):

The info you got from your guy in Switzerland is EXACTLY what I was told by the second surgeon in Seattle.

Hence, no surgery for me.

Let's hope that their 8 week prediction is right.

Did they give you any timetable of when I should take off the sling? Start doing excercise etc.? I was told to not lift my arm above my soldier for 8 weeks too.

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ October 25, 2001 02:50 PM: Message edited 1 time, by worldfishnski ]</font>
post #19 of 27

About my rehab (I don't think others not in this predicament will want to read through this):

For better or worse I have had a number of injuries and arthritis consequences (including a hip replacement that I was coming back from when I broke my clavicle) to give me some experience in judging my own rehab. progression. With the clavicle it really isn't a matter of when the bone is healed back together because it doesn't heal like a normal end to end fracture. Following a clavicular fracture a soft tissue callous forms around the overlapping ends which, over time, becomes more and more calcified and hardens. I found it pretty easy to judge how I was doing along the way and have some idea of how strong the callous was.

I had the fracture on the left and actually gave a mini-tennis lesson the next day (to a fellow traveler of the group I was hosting who was having trouble with his backhand). I was able to do this because I knew very well how to isolate my right forehand swing as a consequence of my hip rehab and knew that movement between the bones on the second day (if a made a wrong move or slipped) probably wouldn't cause any further damage (no healing had taken place yet).

After that, I layed off for a couple of weeks before starting to feed tennis balls to my kids to work them out. While feeding (and occasionally vollying a shot hit at me) I occasionally moved the left side a bit too much and got a nice twang for my efforts. Initially, of course, I wondered if I had broken down some of the new tissues but soon realized that this was not the case as I quickly recovered from the pain and could keep going. An Xray at 3 weeks confirmed healing was going fine. At five weeks they let me out of my figure 8 brace (unfortunately they didn't offer me the option of a sling) about 2 weeks ahead of schedule. My thought was that by remaining active maybe I stressed the fracture site just enough to promote healing but not damage the new tissues. Probably not the case but a nice thought nevertheless.

With removal of the brace I started to play tennis more regularly (I had already tried hitting a few ground strokes) but certainly had my share of reminders that it wasn't totally healed yet. Soreness lasted for a number of months afterword but gradually decreased over time. I had a lot of scapular pain but I think that was probably a result of being in the figure 8 brace for 5 weeks.

I travelled with my family on a ski trip at three weeks and probably could have skied a groomer. But any jerky movement (inculding getting on a chair) would have been "noticeable" and I felt that any stumble or fall could have easily damaged the callous forming around the bones. I think that at 2 months I could have skied but I did wonder if the healing tissues would hold up under a big fall at that time. At 3 months I did ski and everything did hold up even with one high speed tumble.

I think your surgeon can give you good advice based on your films and you should closely follow it. Beyond that, listen carefully to your body and you'll be ok. I think you'll know how high you can lift your arm every step of the way.

Disclaimer - my surgeon did not want me feeding tennis balls at 2 weeks post fracture but what he didn't know didn't hurt him or me. On the other hand, I can't say I think it's a great idea going against the advice of your surgeon, I just have a LOT of difficulty not being active in tennis or skiing.

Pain - I would say that this injury had a reasonable amount of pain associated with it. The sharp pain from a jerky movement or a bump on the shoulder was severe but ususally relatively short lived and easy to handle (for me). The strong and continuous aching, however, that accompanied this injury was a real drag. Don't be too concerned if you need to take your pain medications for a few weeks.

Hope this helps.
post #20 of 27
Thread Starter 
I'm saving my pain medication for recreational use.

Why waste it by off-setting its affects with pain!
post #21 of 27
Worldfishnski -

I hope you have a speedy recovery! It sounds like you might be able to make some turns again in December (or January). Good for you!

Take care!

post #22 of 27
You will be ok in about 2 months. Mine has been broken 3 times in 2 diff accidents. No Surgery. It looks kinda bumpy, but feels ok. Unfortunately, in the second crash, I also tore rotator which is more of a problem.

I think the clavicle is one of the easiest to heal without surgery. Keep it immobile and do the pt as hard as the doc will let you.
post #23 of 27
Thread Starter 

Short Version-
I have skied three times in the last 5 days. No problems whatsoever. One double eject frontwards fall but into deep pow. Yipee.

Long Version-
At three weeks, the trip back to Doctor #1 showed no improvements on the film. I was distraught until the doctor said that improvement is based on clinical results. Since I was able to move the arm in most directions (except above my shoulder) pain-free he said I was doing great.

At 6 weeks, we didn't even take pictures but I had full range of movement. He said I screwed up my rotator cuff but not bad enough to warrant surgery. He also said I could start lifting weights (bar only) and resume a normal (skiing) life though I have a good chance of re-breaking it in a bad spill between now and February.

Doctor#2 says X-rays won't show improvement 'til May. I have an appointment with him on Weds.

I occasionally have pain that feels like I'm being stuck with a needle. The doctor says it is a muscle that is getting caught on the end of the broken bone. This pain has diminished with time.
post #24 of 27
Good too hear you are healing fine. My son's leg is feeling much better but on the x-rays he still has a way to go before the leg is totally healed. It has been over 6 months.
You are so lucky to be skiing in pow!!! We have not much to brag about right now.
Thanks for the update!!!Terry Carey
post #25 of 27
Check out this introduction article on Clavicle:
post #26 of 27
Speaking of articles, any of the clavicle boys seen today's Tech Q&A:

Riding over the fallen

It shows the front wheel, as the bike is leaned over, turning away from the direction of the lean of the bike, the opposite of how a front wheel normally turns in a lean on a stable bike. Instead of turning to get the tire contact patch back under the rider's center of mass to stabilize the bike, the tire contact patch in this extreme-fork-trail mock-up instead moves rapidly further out from under the rider's center of mass and encourages the rider to fall down.
post #27 of 27
wolffisher--Sorry to hear that. I've broken mine, so has my wife. Both 100% recovered without surgery. One of our docs said the only way to mass up a clavicle was to operate.
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