View Full Version : Broken collarbone

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Jennifer Yabut
03-28-2009, 12:26 PM
Just broke my right clavicle last night during practice. A few of us were practicing randori at half-speed, but I was thrown a *little* faster than half-speed that I wasn't expecting. My shoulder connected quickly with the mat, and my head somehow connected with my collarbone...and *crack*. I knew something was wrong as soon as I hit the mat, and asked one of the guys to drive me to the ER. The doctor said it'll take six weeks to heal. No training or driving for six weeks.

I'm not angry at the person who threw me, but I'm also extremely bummed about not being able to train. I have plenty of videos to watch and can still practice my footwork, but I also see myself going stir-crazy within a week. This is the first time I ever broke any bones, and I'm trying to figure out what else I can and cannot do.

Anyone else have "war stories" to share, and how to cope with extended time off the mat due to injuries?

Walter Martindale
03-28-2009, 12:45 PM
Bummer. Ligaments take even longer to heal - if they do. nearly 30 years after tearing my ACL I sort of wish I'd broken the leg instead - 6 weeks in a cast, sure, but my knee would still work...

I'm not a doctor but I've been around a lot of sports injuries.
bones heal better and stronger if they're given a chance. You HAVE TO let the bone ends re-join and form bone between them - it will be the strongest part of the bone - if you let it heal.

I have a friend who broke her fibula - an ALMOST vestigial bone in the leg - the hospital didn't cast it, and after 4 weeks the follow up scan showed no healing - too much movement of the bone ends, and now she's in a cast for 8 weeks.
Yes, it can drive you mad.
Once the healing has started and the bone is "one" but you're still thinking you can go back to training, ask yourself how long you want to stay out if you RE break it by going back too early.
If it's OK with your quac... oops.. doctor, after a couple or three weeks, try getting on a stationary bike for a while - not much upper body movement there - then go for walks, long ones. When some national team rowers have rib stress fractures and can't "pull" they get sent on 10 km walks while the crews are out for a 16-20 km row... Great aerobic exercise, minimal stress on the upper body. They don't come back too early, or they're out for months instead of weeks...
Hope you heal well,

Jennifer Yabut
03-28-2009, 01:25 PM
I don't have an exercise bike, but I do own an old Nordic track. Would that also work?

I already figured that I *don't* want to start breakfalling immediately after getting back on the mat. Perhaps another month after it heals...would that be a reasonable amount of time before I start doing the "crazy stuff" again? I'm hoping to be 100% by Summer Camp in the end of July, and I'm *don't* want to spend the whole week at the back of the mat...

03-28-2009, 04:01 PM
Dangerous ukemi, uh? Take care and heal fast! Best.

03-28-2009, 04:22 PM
i once dislocated my shoulder pretty bad during training, so i just worked on my Tai Sabaki until i felt comfortable doing breakfalls again.

Marc Abrams
03-28-2009, 05:24 PM

I am REALLY SORRY about your injury! I would concur on the the tai sabaki practice. I have also done visual imagery practice when I am injured. I also read about some of related "heady" info to help me think deeper about what I am doing. I would also suggest looking at some of the systema stuff on ukemi. George Ledyard posted a seminar run by a friend of a friend of mine, who is a systema instructor in seattle. Their ukemi stuff is top-flight in learning how to avoid those kinds of injuries.

An important thing to remember is that keep a close track as to how long it takes for the injured site to stop hurting. Most people believe that they are almost healed at that point and push it to re-injuring themselves again (idiots like me use to specialize that in my ancient past!). You are only 1/2 way there at that point. Take it easy re-introducing yourself to pressure on the injured site.

Heal quickly!

Marc Abrams

Michael Varin
03-29-2009, 05:19 PM
Hey Jennifer,

Sorry to hear about your injury.

This may sound odd, but injuries can actually be great learning opportunities. I do not know how long you have been training, but in my first two years, I was addicted to being on the mat. I actually felt that my skills would suffer from Friday to Monday if I missed the Saturday class. I was forced to deal with that when I separated my shoulder. So I know where you are coming from when you say you see yourself "going stir-crazy within a week." This can be a chance to reevaluate your relationship with training, with just being still, and not constantly having to go to get that thing that will make you feel complete.

Also, injuries are an opportunity to increase your body's natural intelligence. You will move in ways that better protect you. I can tell you, half-speed jiyuwaza can be very dangerous if you are at half-attention also.

Last, while I highly recommend following Marcs advice, above, on not returning to training prematurely (I have made that mistake more than once as well). Once you get back on the mat, there is another great lesson in forgetting about your injury, and just letting yourself go 100% again.

03-29-2009, 05:48 PM
What Michael said. Also, being injured is an opportunity for learning about injury. When it comes to healing, the doctor does about 5% (at most), your body does 95%, and your failure to listen to your body and do the right thing can undermine 100%. It's a classic case of great wisdom through painful experience: you'll screw up and get setbacks, everyone does. Just be wise about it. When you find yourself wanting to yell, "Heal dammit!" at your collarbone -- which every active person does -- that is the time to step back and develop a different attitude. You can work through injury, or you can try to go around injury and get knocked back. I can't tell you how many injured people I've seen who were all anger and impatience (with their own bodies, mostly). How well do you think your body will heal if that's the attitude you put on it? Call me a fluffybunny all you want, but I don't believe that you can really heal if you're angry at your body for being broken.

Ron Tisdale
03-29-2009, 06:02 PM
Jennifer, best wishes for a speedy recovery, and sorry that it happened at all. Tai sabaki is good. Trying to find someone to work internal skills with is better (someone who can really show you, not someone like me who is just talk). Also, mitori geiko (midori?)...learn by watching.


Nick P.
03-30-2009, 08:43 AM
Ouch. Drag.

Visiting a dojo in another city at the 6am class took a bad fall from koshi-nage (at that point in my training a technique I had never done before) landed square on my neck. By lunchtime couldnt move my head in any direction, by evening if I lay flat on the floor the back of my head could would remain some 2-3 inches off the floor, and to this day I have never been is so much pain.
Turns out one of the upper vertebrae twisted in one direction, the one below it in the opposite direction. Shudder to think how close to a far more serious injury I had come.

Have fun out there, but be careful.

03-30-2009, 09:55 AM
May be you can do some fencing practice with other hand? I know Sugano sensei did some fencing quite some time.

Janet Rosen
03-30-2009, 10:23 AM
Ouch! I'm sorry...Our very first The Mirror column was a round robin about injuries and it included Katherine talking about her broken collarbone.
The best mental shift I can counsel if to take a deep breath and tell yourself "THIS is the training now": taking time to heal while keeping your spirit and body strong. The weather is changing, a good time to take long walks! As folks have said, its a great chance to work on tai sabaki. Also for "eye-waza", going to class and watching. You can learn a lot that way AND its an odd thing but if you let your body sit in a chair and sort of breath and twitch muscles in the timing of what you are watching, it becomes a form of more-than-visualization that actually helps you learn.

Keith Larman
03-30-2009, 11:33 AM
As a guy constantly dealing with injuries (bad back problems means periodic unwilling breaks from training) I've found that I've learned more watching sometimes than practicing. Yeah, I know, I always want to get out there and train too, but you'd be surprised how many subtle things you pick up from the sidelines. For me it is especially true watching the teacher demonstrate then watching how the students manage to do (or sometimes not do) what sensei showed. Often the disconnect is the most interesting part because you see what doesn't work and sometimes even why. It makes me all the more focused during the times I can train and reminds me why I'm there in the first place. So watch and learn. Practice movement. But first and foremost let the body heal completely.

Faith Hansen
03-30-2009, 12:54 PM
Hey Jennifer,

I broke my clavicle last June. It was during kid's Aikido and I just ended up in a bad position. I broke mine pretty bad and opted for surgery. I had the surgery a week after the break (4 inch plate and 7 screws). Because of the surgery I had a pretty long recovery time. I was told by my doc that it would be 6-8 months for full recovery.

As much as it was hard being off the mat, I totally agree with the others that it was a good experience for me. I really became in tune with my body and learned to trust it. I took it really slow coming back to training. I assisted during kid's class where I could, taught one-armed with a sling for awhile, and finally trained in groups of three so that I would only throw and not be thrown. I took it slow and listened to what my body told me it could do.

My advise for you: Don't rush things. Be aware of the injury and dont' be afraid to baby it in the beginning. Take small steps back onto the mat when you can.

Pictures if you are interested: (warning some of them are a bit gruesome....) http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2003851&id=1127616733#/album.php?page=1&aid=2003851&id=1127616733 (if you can't see these, hit me up on facebook and I'll friend you, I do have a locked profile)

Jennifer Yabut
03-30-2009, 12:57 PM
Thanks, everyone. :) Definitely plan to take it easy, and yes, also planning to come down to the dojo 1-2x/week to watch practice. Never thought about how well the body can pick up movements and learn time from observation. I also have scores of DVDs and seminar footage to watch, but I can only stare at so many videos before getting sick of it.

I also practice Yagyu Shinkage Ryu, and obviously, weapons training is also out.

Going in for a follow-up appointment next Tuesday (April 7th). Still keeping my fingers crossed...

Faith Hansen
03-30-2009, 12:57 PM
I guess I should say that I"m back to full training now. I still hesitate a bit when rolling off the left side (not quite breakfalling off that side yet), but I'm working on it. :)

Jennifer Yabut
03-30-2009, 01:11 PM
Pictures if you are interested: (warning some of them are a bit gruesome....) http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2003851&id=1127616733#/album.php?page=1&aid=2003851&id=1127616733 (if you can't see these, hit me up on facebook and I'll friend you, I do have a locked profile)

Ow! Definitely worst than mine; I'm grateful they didn't have to cut my shoulder open. And this was from a kids' class? Wow. Did the plate eventually come off, or is it now permanent?

I've been rather fearless with breakfalls prior to the accident, and there is a part of me that wonders if my body is going to be more *hesistant* as a result. Is your hesitance a conscious thought (i.e., you telling yourself to *not* breakfall) or your body telling you it's not ready (does that make sense)? I'm also supposed to be testing for 1st kyu soon; although that testing is now delayed, a big part of me is hoping it *won't* become delayed by that much. If anything else, perhaps being forced to "slow down" may help me have a better test. I hope.

I also posted my clavicle x-rays on Facebook, but since you won't be able to see them, I'll send you a Friend request.

Faith Hansen
03-30-2009, 02:33 PM
Yeah it was from kids class. I take the hardest falls from kids class. I swear my Sensei likes to hear the exclamations from the kids and parents as he tosses me around!! LOL.It was a hanmi-handachi technique. I was standing. I knew the minute the throw started that something was wrong. My hips/legs got locked down and I couldn't get enough air. I hit at an angle on my shoulder. I managed not to cry in front of the kids at least. They didn't even know I got hurt. It was kinda funny in the ER though since I was still wearing my gi and black belt. People kept asking if I got into a fight...

My hesitation was at first all from my body. Now most of it is confidence and fear. You ability to be a Nage will be back much sooner than Uke, so hopefully testing will work out for you. In fact once you are a bit healed I would recommend training one handed in the sling. It's quite the experience.

Jennifer Yabut
03-30-2009, 03:10 PM
I didn't cry either (my shoulder didn't even hurt), though I did briefly scold the person who threw me. I can't be too hard on him though, since he felt VERY bad about my injury and even came with me to the ER. And I also ended up in the ER wearing my gi and zori, though I did take my belt off.

I had bursitis in my left shoulder last year, which pretty much sidelined me for about 3 weeks - though I was bad and kept "sneaking" back on the mat. ;) And about a week after I returned to the mat, I was back to my usual breakfall-happy self (and it felt GOOD being able to take high falls again!) Not sure that bursitis is a good point of reference, since broken clavicle is much worse, but it seemed like my body adjusted very well to doing what comes "instinctively", I guess. And I've always been a better uke than nage, except for that one throw last Friday...

Walter Martindale
03-31-2009, 01:36 AM
Hi again. In the early days of your injury you're sure getting a lot of advice.
When the movements of your body doing tai-sabaki don't cause pain in the break, then you keep going.
Waaaaay back when I was studying exercise physiology, there were some studies published in Acta Physiologica Scandinavica (oh please don't ask for the citations - I biffed out all those offprints and photocopies about 20 years ago). They studied the strength training effects of doing exercises in a contralateral limb. i.e., take a person, measure their strength on both sides, train only one side, and then measure both sides again, after about 8-10 weeks of training. Of course, the trained side got stronger/fitter. but - so did the untrained side..
Part of this increased strength in the untrained side can be accounted for in the way the brain, spinal cord, and corpus callosum talk from one side to the other. (it's a learning thing).

So what? When you're able to do tai sabaki that doesn't cause pain in your busted collarbone, you can practice a lot of hand movements on the un-busted side, and the learning/training you get on the unbusted side will "leak" into the motor control of the injured side and your skills on the injured side will have improved somewhat when you return to using the healed side...

Hope that makes sense...
Walking, tai-sabaki, practice the uninjured side (if you can get an uke or a few who won't mind only taking ukemi for you while you're injured, or being nage only to the kuzushi stage on your good side, even better)
Heal well.

Sarah Lothmann
04-20-2009, 10:22 PM
Well I wish my war story was as cool sounding as yours! Mine was during a forward roll- landed square on the point of my shoulder. I heard a crunch and grind and felt something very nasty. Think I was smart enough to stop? Nope. Oh well, so I'm left with a fracture and torn labrum among some other secondary stuff. It's in My Blog (http://www.aikiweb.com/blogs/sarahs-blog-16736/) if you're bored. I'm on week six right now and I just found out on Friday I've got 4 more to go. :( So...here's my best advice to get through the time... Youtube...lots of stuff there, the internet- you'll have searched all there is on Aikido by week 3, take a cab to class to keep watching, order groceries online, read whatever you can- my library is now a mini Aikido shrine, continue lower body practice like foot work at home, and as my Sensei recently just suggested...pick up sewing or knitting! :D
Oh...and if you get stuck in your shirt? Here's how I handled that one.. Shoulder Injury T-Shirt (http://abstractrealityteam.com/eablog/2009/03/20/shoulder-injury-t-shirt/)

Jennifer Yabut
04-20-2009, 11:59 PM
So I've been doing a bit of mitori geiko (watching practice at the dojo) and watching some of my Aikido footage. Also rewatched my past couple kyu tests a few times. I've also been playing LOTS of Rock Band, because I can only watch so much Aikido footage before I start going stir-crazy again. I have been out of work for the past three weeks, since it is typing intensive, and I can't type 40 wpm using only my left hand.

My next follow-up appointment is tomorrow (actually, later on this afternoon, since it's past midnight). Last appointment, the doctor said my clavicle was healing okay, and I should be able to take off the sling and return to work after the next appointment. I can actually feel the bones connecting under my skin (and under a huge lump on the bone), which is a good sign, I guess. Still won't be able to go back on the mat, obviously - but at least I should be able to go back to work. And hopefully be able to drive. That was the other thing that drove me nuts, *not* being able to drive. Also planning to watch a few seminars (I've become quite a seminar junkie); although it's not nearly as fun to watch from the sidelines, at least I'll be able to videotape some of the training and practice later when I'm fully recovered. And it's also one of my ways to keep myself mentally prepared. Still hoping to be 100% - or close to it - by Summer Camp in the end of July.

And yes...I'm planning to listen to my doctor all the way - especially considering my penchant for pushing myself a *little* too hard. ;)

Edited to add: Sarah, I've been wearing button-up shirts. As you can imagine, taking off my t-shirt and sports bra a couple days after the accident wasn't a lot of fun.

04-21-2009, 03:30 AM
Jennifer, I broke my collarbone in what sounds like exactly the same way a long time ago. From memory, the doctors were pretty unhelpful and I ended up getting more value from my sister's Nursing textbooks, particularly in the area of physio exercises.

I took about six weeks off class completely and was very careful with myself on return - not taking ukemi at all probably for as long again. Pay attention to any pain - it will tell you where the limits are. I had the feeling at the time that some careful light exercise helped the bone to heal slightly quicker and slightly stronger. Nearly 20 years later, I'm still doing Aikido with no ill effects.

Also, if the guy that threw you has a sense of humor, feel free to tease them mercilessly about it over the next few years :D

Jennifer Yabut
04-21-2009, 10:29 PM
So I had my latest x-rays done, and another follow-up with the ortho. He was satisfied with the healing process, and allowed me to take off the sling, though he wants me to put it on if I'm in a crowd (like a ballgame). He also wants me to start PT once a week for the next six weeks, and my next follow-up with him will be in 3 weeks. Now I need to get a referral from my PCP for PT, and then call around different PTs and schedule an appointment. I guess that's how I'm going to spend my lunch hour at work tomorrow - lol. Speaking of work, I'm going back tomorrow morning, full-duty. This will be interesting, since it's primarily typing. I hope I can hold up...

It's also very odd: When I took off the sling, I felt somewhat disoriented. Obviously, my right arm has become weakened from being immobilized for the past three weeks. I don't have full range of motion, and on top of that, my overall equilibrium is now a bit out of watch. It's very disconcerting. The doctor also cleared me to drive, but suggested for me to drive a few times around the block to see how I hold up. I may try that in a couple days. I hope I'm at least able to drive, because after being cooped inside my house and in Philly in general (except for a few occasions where I had to be driven), I've been going slightly (okay, MAJORLY) stir crazy. Not being able to train is already bad enough. Not being able to GO anywhere on top of that just added to the frustration.

I'm not trying to rush anything by any means. Although at the moment, my right arm and shoulder hasn't been exactly 100% compliant with my wishes, so I don't have my choice in the matter. Hoping that my progress in PT will go much better than expected...

Sarah Lothmann
04-22-2009, 05:36 PM
:) That's great news from your Ortho! Keep us posted on your PT. I'm now in my third week of PT. Yesterday we increased the "no pain no gain" factor. Im so glad they have those little electrode thingies...they are quite soothing after an hour of work.

Hang in there with driving...seat belts get irritating to me. Although I think the toughest time I have had has been at slow speeds such as navigating in parking lots.

Glad to hear you're out of your sling! :D

Neal Earhart
04-22-2009, 08:57 PM
Glad to hear that your recovery is going well.

But, take the time to allow yourself to heal and recover. Aikido will always be there for you. Don't come back too soon...don't let this injury develop into a chronic condition resulting from not healing properly...

Howard Popkin
04-22-2009, 10:21 PM

Even though we have never corresponded, I felt compelled to write you a short note.

I have been a student of "Aiki" related arts and various others since the age of 9. Around 18, I suffered a horrible knee injury that tore my quad tendon and destroyed my cartilage.

Sine that time I have had 10 knee operations to postpone the inevitable which happened this December - a total knee replacement.

Every time I start to complain to myself about my knee or my rehab, I call myself all sorts of names which I can't print here and then think about my friend Ole Kingston. This is a link to an article written about him in Aikido Journal.


Yesterday was 4 months since my total knee replacement. I have taken a few full ukemi, but not with my right leg landing down yet, only my left. Yes, it was very scary. Thought of my implant popping out were racing through my head as I went over.

Well, Iam fine, and you will be too. All the advice you have been given is correct. Aikido will be there. Heal first, but.......practice stance work, practice body movements. If you practice very softly, I bet you can figure out a one-handed nikyo or shihonage. Go on the internet and look at some of Akuzawa's body conditioning skills.

Don't let this get you down. Turn it into a positive experience.

If you need help, ask....there are so many wonderful people on this board that would help.

I know, many of them helped me.

Do your physical therapy and then get back to the dojo. IT misses you.

Be well,

Howard Popkin
Daitoryu Aikijujutsu Roppokai
New York