Dealing with shoulder injuries

  • Although a broken collarbone is rarely caused by direct force, the indirect stress from a hard fall on to a rider’s outstretched arm or to the shoulder can be a common cause of a fracture.

    Immobilising the injured shoulder and arm, and taking the casualty to hospital as quickly and comfortably as possible is the top priority.

    If a collarbone fracture is suspected, there may be pain that becomes worse with movement, and the shoulder may be swollen or appear deformed. The casualty is likely to carry his head to the injured side and support the elbow in an effort to relieve pain.

    Crashing falls to the shoulder or an outstretched arm may also result in damaged ligaments or dislocation of the joint.

    This will obviously be extremely painful so the casualty may be reluctant to move and likely to incline the head to the injured side and support the arm. The shoulder can have a flat, angular look.

    What to do

    • Help the casualty to sit down and place the affected arm diagonally across the chest, with their fingers on the uninjured shoulder, supporting the elbow with their other hand
    • Remove any uncomfortable clothing, and place a soft pad between the arm and body.
    • Using a triangular bandage, form a sling, placing soft padding inside between the arm and chest to offer comfort
    • If this is not possible, get the casualty to support the injured arm in the most comfortable position for them and call medical aid
    • Do not allow them to eat, drink or smoke in case a general anaesthetic is needed
    • Don’t attempt to replace a dislocated bone
    • Get the casualty to hospital where the injury can be properly assessed
  • This information is available in the eighth edition of the First Aid Manual authorised by St John Ambulance.

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