X-ray image of my broken collar bone.

No KOM or race win is worth an injury lay-off

One year ago today I broke my right collar bone in the first race of the season.1  It was also my last so far. I suppose almost every ambitious athlete suffers an injury during his life. I will describe my experience with the collar bone and what I learned from it.

Operation

In most of the cases an operation is needed. In the operation there will be a plate applied which connects the two parts of the broken collarbone again. But I managed to shred the outer three centimeters of the bone completely. It was not possible to screw a plate on top of it. My doctor decided to do a tight rope fixation. They drilled a hole through the intact part of my collar bone and another one through the bone below and pulled a rope through to move the collarbone down. That way the collarbone was in the right place again and could merge again with those fragments at the outer side.

Recovery

The problem with this is that it takes much more time than a fixation with plate would have. And you can’t move your arm properly for weeks. Because of that I had to wear a shoulder immobilizer for ten weeks. Thats a massive sling around the neck that looks like a sofa for small children. My recovery went pretty well, I think. I had regular physiotherapy in which I always could perform every exercise my trainer wanted to do. 52 days later I sat on my bike again. But only at home on the bike trainer. Outside the concussions would still have been too much. Over two months after the accident I did my first jog. My first time on the bike outside was 74 days after the accident – thats two and a half months without proper biking. That was a long time.

Motivation kicks in

When I had time to ride my bike again it was already autumn. But my motivation was higher than ever. I bought very good winter clothes and rode through the whole winter. When the temperatures got friendlier again my ride became even longer. This march was the month with the longest distance I ever had. I never was fitter. I further optimised my bike, adjusted the suspension and rethought my position on the bike. My feeling on the bike was so good.

Second injury

Two weeks ago I managed to crash again. One second after I went down I knew my collar bone was broken. Again. I roared into the woods. Frustration. Twenty seconds later I picked up my bike and rode home. This time I did a better job breaking the collar bone. Same bone, different position. This time I got a titan plate on the bone. It feels like a steel beam inside my shoulder.
It was my second bike accident since I ride mountainbike more serious. I hope in the future not every accident results in a bone injury. I would also be easily satisfied with some small scratches…

Recovering from a déjà vu

In the first days while I waited for my operation I felt pretty devastated. Everything felt like a big déjà-vu. It was difficult to accept that my season is falling apart yet again. But some days after the operation – today is day 8 – I felt that thanks to that plate I’m much more able to do things than last time. I already move around without the arm sling most of the time. I mean I’m stille pretty slow with everything that has to do with that arm. But at least I can move it at all. I plan to be on the bike trainer as early as next week. My physiotherapist even advised me to do so. Because encourage my metabolism will help with the healing.

Lessons learned

Because the same accident happened again so fast I spent a good amount of time thinking about what I can do to prevent this kind of accidents in the future. Both accidents didn’t have much in common. But I came up with a (still a bit undefined) list of things I plan to do:

  • Participate in a technique training to improve my bike handling skills.2
  • Don’t ride at the limit when I don’t have perfect vision.
  • Fast descending is not what makes a fast race.
  • Only ride fast when I have inspected the trail just moments ago.

Some of those points are common sense but sometimes when you have fun on the trail you ignore some of these rules. I try to keep them in mind in the future every time I have the impulse to hit the pedals hard. It is always good in life to reflect your own actions – so it is on the bike.


  1. In minute 18 it gets “interesting”.

  2. I’m looking for bike training schools in south Germany right now. If someone has any tips. I would prefer someone who has actual experience in Cross Country racing and such things as curve technique, rock gardens, small jumps …