The first time Ted King broke his left collarbone, around 2002, he was an amateur cyclist just getting into the sport. His chain snapped at a local race, and when he got up out of the saddle to accelerate, he went flying over his handlebars and into the pavement. The second time, he was racing on pro team Liquigas-Cannondale at the Philadelphia International Cycling Championship in 2011 when his front tire got caught in a storm grate—and he went flying over his handlebars and into the pavement.
“It’s a distinct feeling,” King says about the break. “It’s a very sharp, distinct pain. Even if you’ve never broken a bone before, you’re acutely aware of a broken collarbone.”
Cyclists aren’t the only athletes at risk of cracking a clavicle. A fall into your hand or shoulder while skiing, snowboarding, skateboarding, or trail running could all cause a break and lead to six weeks or more of recovery time.
How to prevent it:
“The only way to prevent a broken collarbone is to not crash,” says Dr. Ramin Modabber, a Los Angeles-based orthopedic surgeon, and The Tour of California’s chief medical officer. Collarbone fractures typically result from blunt-force trauma, either directly to the bone, or from falling on an outstretched arm, rather than a muscle or movement imbalance. Therefore, developing excellent sport-specific skills won’t always prevent a collarbone cracking crash; cycling greats like Lance Armstrong, Tyler Hamilton, and Stuart O’Grady have all broken collarbones. A diet rich in calcium and vitamin D, and a strict strength training regimen won’t necessarily prevent a break either, says Modabber, though they can’t hurt.