If you are a regular cyclist who has been cycling for a long period of time the chances are that you will have come off your bike and suffered an injury of one sort or another. If this has happened there is a high possibility you may have hurt your shoulder. The mechanics of cycle accidents inevitably expose the shoulder region of the body more than any other part (assuming a helmet is worn). Also, the shoulder is not the most naturally protected part of the human body, with less protective muscle fibre, tissue and fat around the exposed bones than most other bony areas.
So it comes as no surprise that so many cyclist accident clients of mine suffer shoulder trauma.
And now I too am in the shoulder trauma cyclist club, having come off my bike on a steep descent near Leek on a Sportive last October, when I broke my collar bone (clavicle) in 2 places and shoulder blade (scapula) also in 2 places.
Being a specialist cyclist solicitor it is part of my job to know about bones, muscles and ligaments throughout the body, but there is nothing better than personal experience to be able to understand the pain and learn the best methods of self-help and treatment. (There is a happy ending to this, I promise. Read on!)
COLLAR BONE/CLAVICLE FRACTURES
The collar bone is a long thin bone that runs from the breastbone to each of the shoulders. Because it is so thin it is easily broken, but collar bone breaks can be very painful. If the bone breaks through the skin (rare), surgery under general anaesthetic will be necessary. Even if it does not, depending on how clean or otherwise the break, surgery with plates and screws inserted may be needed. Fortunately for me my breaks were both clean to both ends of the clavicle and mended without surgery, however I did need quite a lot of strong pain-killing concoctions to get through the pain barrier (especially in the first 6 weeks!).
I was in a makeshift sling for most of this time but was encouraged to mobilise as much as I could, and engaged thoroughly in the physiotherapy regime/weekly intense physio which went on for 4 months then eased off to now to doing self-help mobilisation exercises twice daily.
More about advice in regards to treatment techiques are to follow.
SHOULDER BLADE (SCAPULA) FRACTURES
I also broke my scapula, the shoulder blade – again luckily for me relatively clean breaks but owing to the collar blade fractures compounding the issue it was touch and go whether I would need to be opened up. I am pleased to say now this was not the case. This bone is slightly better protected with muscle fibre and ligaments so a less common injury for cyclists.
HUMERUS (UPPER ARM BONE)
The humerus is the 3rd bone in the shoulder structure and is best thought of as the upper part of the arm. I have acted for a number of clients and still do who have suffered rotator cuff tears. The rotator cuff is a set of muscles and tendons which attach the humerus to the shoulder and help you lift and rotate your arm.
You can have a partial rotator cuff tear or a full tear. A partial tear damages tissues but does not completely sever them. A full tear will detach them completely. A bad fall off the bike could damage the rotator cuff (a very sharp pain in the shoulder socket region is often a tell-tale sign) and very often surgery will be needed to repair/reattach the tendons.
I escaped a humerus break or rotator cuff tear, but apart from my shoulder did suffer multiple other fractures.
BUT now for the good news –
Despite what you might hear even severe shoulder injuries can be treated and will often lead to full recovery, so even if you are in lots of pain and are presently of the view that the chances of you getting back on you bike are as likely as Mark Cavendish winning King Of The Mountains in the Tour, you should in most cases be able to manage it, and possibly come out stronger.
- Engage in full physiotherapy.
- Make sure you utilise the services of a top physio who understands cycle injuries. Pick their brains – it is the advice they give not just the manipulation they do which is critical. Don’t rely on an NHS “run of the mill” physio if they are not up to it. Go private if you can-for speed and quality.
- Find time yourself during the day for your exercises. I have a busy job but through hard work and discipline maintained the physio for 6 months and am still doing so with good results!
- For rotator cuff injuries especially steroid injections can be very helpful and in some cases be a complete cure. Again, if you can, go private.
- Ensure you engage a top orthopaedic shoulder surgeon. If you have had an accident and are making a legal claim it is critical your solicitor engages a shoulder expert not just a general orthopaedic surgeon. My 25 years plus of experience in acting for seriously injured cyclist and other clients have taught me this above all else. Sadly too many general orthopaedic surgeons do not sympathise with cyclist clients or do not understand shoulders sufficiently. There are only a handful of top ones I would recommend nationwide.
- There is no reason why your solicitor should not be able to organise the whole rehabilitation package for you too. We do and it lifts a huge burden off our clients.
- Above all keep a positive and optimistic outlook with clearly defined goals in mind.
AND FINALLY – the good news is with a bit of luck (and if you follow the above tips) that you will be able to get back on your bike much sooner than you think.
The time off cycling will not have weakened your legs too much –I was surprised to find this myself. The muscle bulk you built up pre crash will still be there. I was back on the bike after 4 months and I cycled 60 miles up to 650 metres on 14% gradients last weekend, less than 6 months on from my multiple fracture crash, and booked myself in for a few sportives over the summer too. There is no reason why you can’t do the same.
Mr J M Canter
KLS Law Solicitors
The KLS Law serious injury claims solicitors, including Mr Jan Canter, are specialist personal injury solicitors who understand that compensation is only one aspect of the story. They will ensure that you receive the compensation, support, medical care and rehabilitation you deserve.
To speak to KLS Law’s No Win No Fee, personal injury solicitors, and discuss a cycling accident or any other serious injury claims with no obligation and in confidentiality, call 0800 015 1470 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or fill out the online claim form.
One of our injury claims solicitors will be happy to help.