Collarbone fractures are common in contact sports like lacrosse, football and hockey, as well as sports that involve speed on a hard surface, like biking, snowboarding and skateboarding.
Fortunately, most collarbone fractures are minor and will heal with rest, ice and pain relievers. But even then, healing can mean six to 12 weeks or more of time away from competition.
The healing process for a collarbone (or any) fracture occurs in four consecutive stages: inflammation, soft callus formation, hard-callus formation and bone remodeling.
That said, here are some tips to speed recovery.
- Stay hydrated. Maintaining muscle size and strength requires water, and blood also has a high liquid content.
- Get at least eight hours of sleep a night to help your body recover.
- Don’t smoke or drink alcohol; both habits can increase dehydration.
Therapeutic exercise helps to maintain the localized blood flow necessary for quick healing. This therapy can also reduce the amount of motion lost and slow the loss of strength and muscle size, depending on how stable the fracture is and whether the athlete had surgery.
This type of exercise focuses on maintaining body weight, strength and muscle.
The training process starts with bodyweight exercises. Although it won’t be possible to load the area for several weeks, you can use a weighted vest for resistance or a loaded dip belt to perform Step-Ups, Lunges and Squats. Stationary Bike Sprints or Tabata Intervals (10 seconds, on 20 seconds off) help maintain stamina and cardiovascular endurance.
After some healing has occurred—two weeks or more depending on the severity of the fracture—you may be able to begin jogging. This is best done in a pool to limit arm motion. From there, you can progress to plyometrics.
The last phase involves upper-body exercises beginning below shoulder level and using tubing or bands. After three to six weeks of healing, you can add range weights and increase the load.
Collarbone Recovery Treatment
1. PRP. Athletes who have undergone surgery sometimes try injections of Platelet-Rich Plasma to hasten recovery. PRP is the patient’s own blood plasma that has been fortified with platelets. Platelets are known for their importance in clotting blood, but they also contain hundreds of proteins called growth factors, which are important in the healing of injuries. PRP has shown some promise in treating fractures.
2. Bone stimulation. Bone stimulators are devices that give off low electrical currents. They come in various forms and are used to assist or speed the formation of bone or union of new bone to old bone after a fusion surgery.
3. Electrical stimulation. Most of the time, electrical stimulation units are used for fractures that have failed to heal, especially in the tibia or in patients who have had spinal fusions (the surgery Peyton Manning had not too long ago). These devices have shown their best promise in these patients.
4. Ultrasound. Several laboratory studies show that the use of LIPUS (low intensity pulsed ultrasound) can accelerate the healing process by influencing all four stages of healing. Specifically, the mechanical stresses resulting from the ultrasonic waves change the function of various cells and molecules involved in the healing process. This has been shown to work best early in the healing process.