The collar bone is an S-shaped, structural member of your upper-thorax. Some people call it the clavicle, which sounds like a meeting of priests pre-Reformation, e.g., “the idea to store holy relics in large stone boxes was affirmed at the Clavicle of Prosecco in 1360.” Of course, a clavicle could also be the stone box you store the relics in, a practice that became less common once the major shipping companies began charging by weight, and stone clavicles ceased thudding off the back of delivery trucks with any regularity. Ikea briefly offered a particleboard clavicle called the Skarjstost, but it only caught on in the narrow market vertical of hummel collectors.
What was I saying?
Oh, yeah. The collar bone is a bone. If you didn’t have a collar bone, your shoulder wouldn’t work, which would make it hard for you to shoulder the blame, a thing we all have to do sometimes. You’d be mushy around the neck too, your arms tapering down your sides, and your range of motion would be strictly limited to flopping your arms around like one of those blow-up dudes they have at used car dealerships. That so much rides on a narrow bit of calcium that, extracted from your skeleton, would remind you of one of those souvenir back-scratchers they sell at beach resorts, can’t be anything but a design flaw.
And if you’ve been over the handlebars of your bike and were unable to affect the commando roll that might turn your accident into a circus trick, seeing you tuck and spin back into a standing position, well then you might know that the collar bone isn’t sturdy enough to sustain considerable impact.
SNIKT is the sound mine made one sunny mid-morning as the tragic mistiming of a bunny-style hop (which, BTW, bears no resemblance to what rabbits do) saw me Australian crawling my way through the air on my way to a heavy, chest-first thump on the waiting ground, not at all unlike, it should be added, the sound of a heavy, stone clavicle being dumped off the back of a UPS truck.
There I lay, my breath gone, my shoulder radiating pain, and yet I couldn’t help smiling softly to myself that something so dumb was about to upend my riding plans for the next fiscal quarter, if not more. What I didn’t know then was that getting my collar bone to heal was only the first part of the challenge. Frozen shoulder came after that. Frozen shoulder is the least popular option on the visual menu on the side of the ice cream truck.
It requires physical therapy and patience, and I only ever had one of those.
Evolutionarily speaking, we are not made to sustain these impacts, which strikes me as odd given the clear fact that, as long as there have been humans, there have been humans falling off of stuff. We’ve been knocking around in some form since the Paleolithic at least (2.5M years ago). You would think nature would have sorted a better impact control system than a skinny little misshapen bone tipped in cartilage.
Friends of mine have added titanium to theirs, an apt mod for a cyclist, although I’m told this isn’t an upgrade in the strict sense of the word, requiring as it does general anesthesia and a level of health insurance many don’t have. The TSA will eventually bar them all from flying too, I’m sure.
Collar bones are like aluminum derailleur hangers. You know, if you ride long and hard enough, you’re gonna snap yours, but does that keep you from doing it? No. It doesn’t. And as long as the rest of the drivetrain is more expensive to replace, this paradigm is not going to shift (see what I did there?). My advice to you is to put a physical therapist on retainer and to work on your bunny hops, because, as my buddy Stevil says (I paraphrase), “You’re not too old to shred; you’re just too old to fall down.”