Broken Humerus, recovery time?

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  • Broken Humerus, recovery time?
  • Goz

    Broke mine 9 weeks ago, got the all clear to ride after nearly 7 weeks.
    Having said that I broke mine just above the elbow with a displacement of only 3.5 mm….no cast, just a collar and cuff and a lot of pain!
    Im only back riding on the tarmac, offroad will have to wait till next year.


    Thats not funny is it 🙂

    Sorry, nothing sensible to say

    Premier Icon crazybaboon

    Got knocked off Tuesday morning by white van man who didn’t see me, resulting in breaking my right humerus just under the ball on my shoulder joint.
    Consultant has decidered not to operate but to let it heal on its own.
    He says it could be 6 months until its good enough to ride again.
    Anyone else had a similar break?

    Speak to TBC – he had a very similar (maybe worse) injury

    Personally I would be looking for a second opinion – I am not sure it will heal well without steel but your consultant knows more than me.

    think in terms of 6 weeks for the bones to be well fixed together, 12 weeks for them to be nearly as strong, 6 month to be as good as new.

    The advantage of no surgery is no / less muscle damage from fitting the mechano to hold it together

    Hope you got his number and insurance, nice new bike from the compo

    Take great care of it, and as TJ says, get a second opinion/ask questions.

    Did mine a while back (2003), had it operated on. The outcome was that the head of the humerous did not survive. Never the same again, ever!!!!



    I broke mine at the end of June going over the bars. Very similar injury to yours by the sound of it, fractured just below the ball but also fractured the ball. Initially plastered but after seeing consultant 2 days later decided on surgery as the ball had rotated and was not lining up with the bone closely enough.

    Had op on 6th July, 6 weeks in a sling (glad I had the op, if only because the plaster was awful) and started physio, now 12 weeks since op, all healed and doing physio and exercises to gain strength.

    Have got around 95% of my range of movement back but do not yet have the strength to lift my arm any further than just above shoulder level (with arm at full extension), I have to walk the arm up the wall with my fingers to keep stretching the muscles and finally have enough strength back to push past the spring to put the car in reverse!

    Make sure you stick to physio, its unbelieveable how much strength you lose and how they seaze up after a few weeks in plaster/sling.

    Opinions when I can ride a bike off road again, seem to be around 9 months to a year, although I have been out on the street and intend to try a few miles on the flat this weekend on a local smooth trail.

    Here is a pic of mine bolts and all:



    Premier Icon metalheart

    I had a commutated fracture of my humerus a couple of inches below the ball joint. It was pretty bad, they decided not to operate as they didn’t think it would help much! (I had a detached flake on the outside). They did ask me what i thought about it though, which was nice… 😯 No cast, just a poly sling. When asked why I wasn’t getting a cast I was advised it was because I might want to breath at some point over the next 6 weeks…
    Im not going to lie it was very painful and I was off work for a month! Just walking a mile into town and back for a coffee was enough to totally tire me out for hours. I also was sure some knobber was going to walk right into me on the street and re break it, some people just don’t look where they are going and the sling is pretty inconspicuous.
    They had me doing some basic mobility exercises after a week too! I also had hydrotherapy which was wonderful. Just letting the arm float supported by the water was pure bliss, like getting your arm back I felt at the time. Then 3 months of weekly physio (although they were very ‘hands off’ no manipulation at all).
    I couldnt even drive for three months. Cant remember how long it took to get back on a bike but 6 months doesn’t seem far off it. I found road biking took much longer to get back into due to the lower dropped position (and years to get back ‘on the drops’). Like a previous poster I don’t have full mobility of movement and I reckon the arm didn’t set straight, probably a 5 degree rotation?
    I downside I found was a distinct lack of bottle afterwards in case I landed on the arm.
    Good luck, hopefully yours won’t be as bad… 😐
    Edit: no surgery was a benefit in some sense as, as said above, less muscle damage to repair. Guy in my physio group spent 6 months on morphine because of his pain after the op. And yes my arm has healed okay, and been fallen on as well. It’s strong enough now to cut loose on an overhang down the climbing wall and I’m no lightweight…


    I broke mine last year,was off work for 6 weeks and was back doing gentle riding after around 10,it’ll be the frozen shoulder you have after which could the real pain in the arse,that can take up to 18 months to heal properly if you’re unlucky,you just need to move it as much as possible as soon as you are able to.


    I’ve done both mine, once dislocated fracture, required 10 screws, the other was a spiral fracture.

    I was riding again after 5 months. I was doing private physio 3 times a week the week after operation. NHS physio was a joke (Addenbrookes in Cambridge). Well worth paying for.

    Premier Icon wwaswas

    not the same, but I had a femoral neck fracture resulting in 3 10cm screws being put in to hold it in place.

    Healing time for the bone was about 6 weeks but it’s the muscle and tendon damage that takes the time to recover from.

    If you do have metalwork ask if they expect to take it out again – my leg has been a lot better since I had my bolts removed a couple of years after the initial op.

    Finally, do the physio until your eyes water with the pain. And then do it some more – it really is key to getting full movement and strength back.

    There are a lot of factors to take into account – it’s never as simple as it seems. The exact position of the break, any comminution (fragments), whether there is any displacement / rotation, how stable it’ll be without fixation. Sometimes it’s borderline and the only way to know if it’s stable is to re-xray after a week or two and see if it displaces. As great as it would be to hear some stories about how someone had an operation and was riding the next week, it wouldn’t apply to your exact circumstances.

    The difficulty is that a lot of these fractures are sustained by elderly people and that’s what your consultant is probably more accustomed to seeing – the healing times, not to mention rehab potential and goals for a fracture in an 80 year old woman are very different to yours. It’s a bit frustrating – I had a shoulder op and the consultant was fairly clueless about how long it would take until it was safe to ride again, I really had to judge it for myself.

    Having surgery simply aligns the bones so they can heal by themselves – the metalwork is rarely good enough to weight bear. If you don’t need surgery to align the bones, you’d want to avoid it as the metalwork poses other risks. In borderline cases, one surgeon might operate and another might opt not to – neither is wrong per se, although it’s easy to think the more ‘proactive’ approach (I.e. surgery) is somehow better. I’d avoid thinking like that if you can – Trust the consultant’s judgement. It may be worth getting a second opinion just to set your mind at ease, but I would be surprised if it made a great deal of difference.

    “When asked why I wasn’t getting a cast I was advised it was because I might want to breath at some point over the next 6 weeks…”

    That’s a remarkably holistic view for an orthopaedic surgeon 😆

    Premier Icon crazybaboon

    Thanks for all the replies, I’ve had a second opinion, and then there was a meeting with the 2 consultants and the surgeon where it was decidered not to operate at this time
    Looks like not much riding untill the sun comes back again!
    The driver stopped and he’s admitted responability to the police.
    I’m a member of British Cycling so I’ve got their solicators on the case.
    Looking forward to filling loads of paperwork out with a broken right arm!

    At least the weather has become terrible.

    david jey

    I did mine back in 2007. Spiral fracture and a very bad break – fragment of bone all over the place so surgery was never not an option for me.

    I assume they can’t put you in a cast for a break that close to the shoulder? If so move as little as possible for the first couple of weeks til it starts to knit! If you are not in a cast you will at least avoid months of physio to get your elbow working again after it has been stuck in the same position for four weeks.

    Riding? Give it as long as it takes, and then a bit longer to be on the safe side. It’ll be worth the wait in the long term. Good luck.

    My wife did similar to you, except she cracked the ball joint in to 2 pieces too, and dislocated it down the inside of be bicep. Nasty.

    Amazing work in A&E from the staff at Whistler (GLC drop got her), and despite going to Vancouver for surgery, on medical advice from the surgeon we flew home to Scotland without any surgery, and ended up with a conservative treatment – mainly due to the skill/luck of the initial work in A&E. She did it 2nd week in August and was riding again in November.

    OH yeah. Regularly flex your elbow. The worst bit for my wife was the seizing of the elbow due to weeks in a sling.

    I broke my arm in the exact same place as the OP. Initailly I got the collar and cuff treatment too. After six weeks the consultant said everything is fine, even though I still had a lot of pain.
    Fast forward problems gettign physio sorted to actually getting physio. After a couple of weeks the physiotherapist decided I was not getting enough movement or strength back around the shoulder and refered me to a specialist. There followed a long round of x-rays and eventually a scan which revealed the bone had not healed correctly.
    End result exactly one year after breaking my arm I had an operation to insert a bone graft, a metal plate and six screws. On the positive side as soon as the op was done I was pain free, which was nice.

    Mate, feel for you. Any injury that prevents you riding is a real pain in the arse. I am finally back to riding the bike again after developing a frozen shoulder after a hard fall back in February. Just building up to going off road again in the next couple of weeks. That’s been 7 months of pain, frustration and occasionally in private tears – yes tears. I am a very strong man but honestly at times the frustration of seeing mates go off on their bikes and I can’t do it is just soul destroying at times.

    Most important thing I would recommend is get yourself a good private physio – preferably one that is a shoulder specialist. Worth their weight in gold if you find a good one. DO NOT, I repeat DO NOT rely on NHS physio to sort you out. Frozen shoulder can be a serious potential side effect to any shoulder injury if you don’t keep your shoulder moving. Frozen shoulder means a fairly restricted range of movement and pain, lots of pain.

    Good luck with everything and chin up. You will be back on that bike eventually. Just be prepared for the long haul and you must put the effort in with the physio. I had my first time back on the bike last week after 7 months off. God it felt bl**dy good!


    I broke the ball at the top of my humerus whilst dislocating it in a crap fall.
    but was ok riding the road bike carefully after a couple of weeks
    all ok now, but took a year to get full range of movement back

    Done mine as well (no op or pins) – all already said above really, depends on the nature of the fracture.

    Only thing I’d stress at this stage is to get referred for physio and stick with it. Thankfully my local HNS service was fantastic (RUH Bath) they take in loads of physio students (from UWE) so I used to get loads of (mostly fit young ladies) practising on me twice a week 🙂 Also did a lot of work in the pool and with the stretchy rubber bands.

    As already said above you may never get the full range of movement and strength back, mine aches like buggery after hard ‘bumpy’ rides. I can’t reach for stuff out of my jersey pocket or side of the rucksack very well (I’m told ladies with the same injury find they can’t do their bras up!).

    Far worse than collar bone fractures (done them both twice as well!)

    Good luck


    my collar bone was a lot worse than my humerus, that was just awful.

    Maybe I’ll stop whinging about my broken scaphoid……….

    GWS crazyb

    Premier Icon crazybaboon

    I’ve broken my left collarbone about 12 years ago whilst doing a xc race, then dislocated my left elbow about 3 years whilst trail riding.
    The pain from my humerus is much worst than the collar bone and slightly worst than the elbow, which was unbelivebley painfull at the time!
    Both the elbow and the humerus needed 2 lots of morphine to take the edge off!


    I did my humerus a few inches above the elbow. I was off the bike for 6 months. Fully plastered are, no surgery. I had a cast designed to pull the bones back in line, but it still took 12 weeks for them to meet and start healing. Worst experience and pain I’ve ever had.

    Godd as new now though.

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