My Broken Collarbone Saga

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It’s funny, when I was a baby, I broke my collarbone twice.   I broke it twice recently, too.   I wonder if it hurt this much when I was a baby.  Probably not.

I was midway into my training plan for Raleigh 70.3 Half Iron race when I broke my collarbone in a bike crash on April 9. Had surgery to put in a titanium plate on April 15th.


May 1st, I continued training in a one-armed fashion, and did Raleigh 70.3  on June 2.


PB in the one armed swim.   Great bike (thanks to Sufferfest training videos!).  Horrid run (aqua jogging does not prepare you for a race!).

raleigh70.3 bile

In retrospect, not a good plan to do the Raleigh race.  I am not Jonny Hoogerland.   Read on…

Shoulder felt great after Raleigh 70.3 for about 10 days, and I felt normal again.  Then pain gradually got worse until on July 1, I felt as bad as day I crashed.  The surgeon could not see me that day, so I saw his Physician Assistant. She took an xray and said the bone looked fine, and had even healed some since last visit.  

Note to all healthcare providers: If an endurance athlete comes to you crying in pain, know that something is very, very wrong. If you tell us this pain is normal and to tough it out. We will. That is what we do. We are all about HTFU. We don’t usually run to doctors crying about it, so please keep that in mind!

When I complained (in tears) about pain, swelling and drooping shoulder, she even got someone else to look at the xray, and confirmed all looked good.  So, she sent me to do PT to strengthen my rotator cuff.

Well, I went to PT a few days later, again, complaining about the pain and swelling and drooping shoulder. She told me my rotator cuff was very angry at me, and I need to tough it out on the PT to get my muscles back to supporting the shoulder. So, I continued doing the PT exercises over the next couple of weeks. It caused even more pain and more swelling on my collarbone.   I didn’t fnd out until three weeks later when I saw the surgeon again, that the xray on July 1st had shown another fracture.  The surgeon reviewed the xray when I said I was still in extreme pain.  He said the edge of the plate is a weak spot and some repetitive stress caused the bone to break.  The bone was angled down kinda funny at the new fracture.

On August 7th,  I had a 2nd opinion with another Orthopedic surgeon.  The 2nd surgeon said that the plate was installed with two out of the three screws on one side of the collarbone into a part of the bone that had a hairline fracture.  They normally try to get three screws on each side of a break into solid bone, but that side did not have that.       He also said no need to do anything about the 2nd fracture, as it is not displaced, so even if it was a new fracture on an unplated bone, they would not do anything but let it heal naturally.  He wasn’t concerned about the weird angle.  That was a big relief.


The 2nd surgeon was surprised that I don’t recall falling or doing anything where I felt the second fracture.  He even asked if I perhaps had gotten drunk and don’t remember.  lol.      Not sure if doing the Raleigh race contributed, since I felt great for 10 days after that race.   Maybe the prep and raceday of Raleigh 70.3 kept that hairline fracture from healing, so it remained a weak spot ready to snap.   I definitely don’t remember any sudden injury.  I do recall a couple times weeks after the race, where I felt some pain that made me stop doing what I was doing.  Not bone breaking pain, but enough to say woah, I better stop this.

frozen-shoulder-adhesive-capsulitis-rotator-cuffAnyway, all the pain of that second fracture, combined with working long hours at a computer,  made me protect my right arm alot for a few weeks, which led to frozen shoulder.  That in itself is extremely painful.  Worst. pain. ever.  It felt like someone tore my arm off, and put it back on wrong.   Worse pain than an ironman, because there is no finish line that you can see.  Pain lasts for weeks not hours.

Two cortizone shots later, I felt much improved.  Mobility was still limited in the right arm, but the 2nd surgeon said that will come back with time and PT.    He said I will swim again someday. yay.

I wanted to blog about all this as the story unfolded, but I was in too much pain to type.  So here is my story now, 5 months later.    I am very much out of shape and have a long way back.  I am now feeling great again, ready to get back on the bike, but I am forcing myself to wait this time until the surgeon tells me that it is 100% safe.  I do not want to break my bone again. Did I mention: Worst. Pain. Ever.

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6 comments on “My Broken Collarbone Saga
  1. Carol Scheible says:

    Wow, just noticed your post, Rich! (sorry, I don’t check comments very often). I hope you are doing well and recovering from your surgery. It most certainly was a painful experience for me. 4th time, you have broken it 4 times!!! Yikers! Heal well and be safe out there!

  2. Rich says:

    I just finished with my collar bone surgery. 8 screws and the plate. So far so good. I did mine while training for the ironman and had a moment a poor judgement. Overall this is my 4th time breaking a collarbone, this one is by far the worst.

    I admire your will to succeed and I think that most tri-athletes have this tenacity. I am going to set up a bike trainer in my house and I hope within a week or two I can ride 50 or so miles so I can retain some of my fitness level.

    I wish you the very best, I’m sure it will heal just fine. Godspeed to you.

    Keep pushing.

  3. Joseph says:

    Great Blog and sorry to hear about your collarbone troubles. I have never broken a bone but have severely sprained an ankle and that was the worst. I live in AZ so I am working towards doing a tri soon. God bless.

  4. Kari K says:

    Carol – I haven’t followed in a while (sticking to swimming now), but wow, that’s a seriously tough break. You’re a beast, girl! I hope you take the time off necessary for a while and let that thing heal so you can get back to being the tri beast you’ve always been. Patience grasshopper! 🙂

  5. Beth! says:

    Yike-a-roonie! What a complicated tale! And painful too. I admire your one armed tenacity, and as a physical therapist know the crazy pain of frozen shoulder, and am sorry you were pushed into PT when your arm was so acutely painful!

    You obviously have a mind of steel, so rock on with your training, excited to see what your races are for 2014!

  6. Hi Carol,

    Thank you for sharing this. I’m glad you are getting ready Again, hopefully with less pain 🙂

    I wish you good luck getting back into shape!

    Thank you for a good read.


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