Returning to play physical-contact sports after a broken collarbone is different for everyone, including professional athletes. Physical therapist, Chad Kofoed explains what rehab is like for a professional athlete and what you should expect too during your recovery time.
What is the typical recovery time for a broken collarbone?
The typical heal time for a broken collarbone can vary based on the severity and type of fracture. Smaller collarbone fractures that do not need surgery can often heal in as little as four to six weeks. Larger fractures broken into many pieces requires stabilization with a plate and screws. This type of fracture may take three or more months to heal.
For a professional football athlete, what does rehab look like?
For a professional football athlete or not, all rehab follows the same general process:
- Just Heal: All fractures need time to heal and generally be left alone. The first four weeks of typical recovery time likely involves wearing a sling.
- Range Of Motion (ROM): The second part of rehab from a collarbone fracture involves restoring the full ROM needed to throw a football again. Flexibility likely returned with only a week or two of mild stretching.
- Strengthening: Regaining total shoulder strength is crucial before a throwing program can begin. With advances in rehab, such as blood flow restriction therapy, progressions in strength after surgery occurring post operatively faster than ever before.
- Throwing: Once cleared to throw, the next step in rehab is to throw for a few weeks and conditioning the arm to get back on the field.
Will rehab continue after getting back onto the field?
Yes and no. For the most part, once a fracture has healed a player should be able to return to play unrestricted. Mild increases in pain and swelling around the fracture site is not uncommon. The professional team’s medical staff will watch and treat these symptoms as they occur.
How does this compare to a non-pro athlete?
The main difference in the rehab of a professional athlete comes down to risk vs. reward. Most patients rehabbing from a collarbone fracture don’t care if it takes 8 or 12 weeks, just as long as they get better.