As cycling fans we're used to hearing stories about broken collarbones and concussions. Most of us see these injuries as a part of the life as a pro cyclist and the pro's don't even complain too much about them. But you don't have to be a pro to break your collarbone....as I found out.
The pro's never tell us what it feels like and what happens after such an injury, so I'll tell my story.
It happened during our Wednesday evening group ride. I was in a break together with two other guys. I moved to the front to take my pull when suddenly a chicken jumped out of the high grass, right in front of my front wheel. I hit it, somersaulted and landed hard on my head and right shoulder. Luckily the others were able to avoid me, so I was the only one who crashed.
I had a look at my Garmin data afterwards and it looks like I was riding 43km/h when the crash happened.
Actually I don't remember the crash or what happened afterwards. Everything I know was told me by friends who were there. My memories from the day of the crash are very fragmented. I remember the medic taking to me when he was putting on the neck protector, I remember jokes about the morphine they gave me in the hospital and I remember talking to my parents later that evening. But most part of that day is gone. No bits and pieces of memories, just nothing.
Apparently I was in some sort of shock the first minute after the crash, but I quickly regained consciousness and started giving orders: "You: call an ambulance. You there: alert my family. Who's going to take care of my bike?".
This went on for a few minutes and my friends were relieved to see that I was thinking clearly after such a hard crash. But after a few minutes I lost it again and I tried to get on my bike and started asking my friends why we were resting instead of riding. This went on until the ambulance arrived and picked me up.
I don't remember what happened in the hospital (maybe because of the morphine, maybe because of the injuries), but the doctors examined me, took X-rays a CT-scan and an EEG-scan and concluded that I had a broken collarbone (see picture above), a severe concussion (several parts of my brains were bruised), a cut in the back of my head and the usual roadrash. In other words: I crashed like a pro!
I've broken several bones as a kid: both my arms, several fingers, lots of toes (soccer), my nose, a wrist,.... But breaking a collarbone feels completely different than these fractures. A traditional fracture hurts all the time. At first it hurts a lot, but the next day it's already much better and the pain isn't all that bad, more like annoying. It's just that the pain is always there.
This is not the case with my broken collarbone. When I'm lying on my back and I don't move, I don't feel any pain at all. But when I do move my upper body or one of my arms, it hurts like hell. An intense, stinging pain goes thru my shoulder (despite the painkillers) and it's so painful that I often prefer to not moving at all, even when my back hurts (from all the laying down) or when I've reached the end of the page in my book. It's definitely the most painful fracture I've had. The slightest movement means I'm in for a terrible pain.
The doctors tell me that it'll remain this painful for about two weeks. After that, it'll slowly get better.
The collarbone is completely broken, but I didn't get a metal pin or plate to put the two halves in place. Instead I was told that both parts of the bone will slowly move into the right place simply by using and moving my arm. The doctors prefer this so called 'conservative' technique to surgery, even when it's slower and more painful than surgery (it's less expensive for or healthcare system).
They'll do a check on Monday to see if things are going the right way.
So what do I think about pro's riding their trainer three days after breaking a collarbone and racing two weeks later? Well first of all you can't compare my situation to theirs. Apparently collarbones heal a lot faster when someone puts a metal pin on them or slaps a metal plate on them. But aside of that difference I can't see how they can ride the rollers (which means the weight of your upper body rests on your arms) so quickly after the crash. I'm convinced that his is only possible if they take a ton of painkillers. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone and I'm certainly not planning on trying it out myself.
This is new for me. I've never had a concussion before, so I can't really compare, but doctors tell me this is a bad one. I haven't had any headaches, but my biggest issues have been the loss of memory, fatigue, difficulties to focus and troubles with my balance.
I'll start with the memory loss. As I said before, I don't remember anything about the crash and what happened later that day, but it's been more than a week since my crash and almost very day someone's told me something I had done and which I had completely forgotten. Awkward! I've also had lots of difficulties with the chronology of events. For example I know who visited me, but it's very hard for me to say who came first, second and third. Very frustrating for a young guy who never had any memory issues before. According to my doctor however, this is normal after a concussion and it will get better soon.
Fatigue: in the first week after the crash, all I did was sleeping. I woke up, had breakfast, slept till noon, ate again, slept till dinner, ate again and slept till it was time to go to bed. I think I slept on average around 20 hours per day. That's a bit better now, but I still take naps in the morning, afternoon and evening.
Focusing on stuff is also really hard. This shows in several ways. I can follow a conversation, but if there's a second conversation going on in the same room, i the radio is playing or if there's some other noise in the background, I really struggle to follow what's being said.
I had to send some e-mails for work last week and after typing a few lines, I was sweating like a pig and completely exhausted. That's a lot better now, but typing this story still took five days and I notice I'm having a hard time writing in English. So sorry for al the typo's, grammatical errors and Dutchims.
The balance troubles really worried me too. I arrived in the hospital on a stretcher. The nurse rolled me onto a hospital bed and I didn't get out of bed until they sent me home the next day. I didn't feel too bad, so I wanted to walk out of the hospital, but when I tried to lift my left leg, it didn't respond and I almost fell over. I had to hold on to a wall to prevent from falling. In the next days, the feeling in my leg came back and now it's perfectly okay, but I still have balance issues. When I'm walking or when I stand upright, I sometimes lose my balance and I quickly have to react or I'll fall. It's bee close on a few occasions. Again, I'm told that this takes some time and it'll get better, but it worries me nonetheless. Creepy!
So what to think about pro's racing with concussions? No two concussions are the same of course, but in my current shape I'm not even able to ride a bike, so racing isn't an option. And I feel that my body and brain really took a beating and need lots of time to recover from this.
I'll end with some pics:
Blood, but it isn't mine
It belonged to this bad boy. He (she actually) didn't survive the crash.
This blood is mine. The helmet saved my life.
Go ahead, make some Chicken jokes.
I know you're dissapointed. You've read all this and you still don't know if my bike is damaged. It isn't actually. Only my right shifter should be readjusted.