The shoulder chronicles: Ignorance was bliss

Three weeks ago, I was feeling healthy and strong. I was training hard and looking forward to a great season of coaching and racing. Then I learned the clavicle I broke four years ago never healed. It turns out my right arm is being held on not by bone and ligament as God intended, but by muscle only. I need surgery. And my thinking has started to change.

Now I know something is wrong. I can feel the end of my collarbone … then the top of my arm … and they’re not always close to each other. Yeah, I can still do pushups and carry heavy things and ride my bike, but now I know what all those funky feelings are — my arm is swimming in my shoulder. The whole thing is unstable, and the wrong crash can do real damage.

Brushing my teeth feels different. Walking feels different. Pulling on handlebars feels very different.

My orthopedist Dr. Koch wants to pin the clavicle and reconstruct the stretched ligaments. Recovery: 12 weeks in a sling and six months to regain basic function.

The thing is, I need my shoulder to make a living. Cameras, bikes and even computers work best with two hands, and my busy season is coming right up. I can delay the surgery until Fall, but can I safely pin a downhill run — or even demonstrate a tricky move — with this knowledge rattling in my head?

Yeah, ignorance was bliss.

Four years after the break. What’s wrong with this picture?

Three days, three bones

26 replies
  1. Keith says:


    What are you waiting for? Get it fixed and start the healing process… If you have been able to do all the normal things in life with broken shoulder for the past 4 years, just think about how strong you will be with repaired shoulder.

  2. jeff says:


    It’s gonna have to get done sooner rather than later.

    My experience working with injured folks is that they start to develop quirky body movement and muscle recruitment patterns. The longer you wait, the more engrained these patterns become, which leads to a whole host of other aches and pains and structural issues.

    Mentally, it can’t imagine it’d be fun trying to ride or demo with a broken wing.

    All the computer/camera work will be tricky, but I’m sure you’ll get super ambidextrous and come up with some nifty solutions!

  3. Sean says:

    Lee, I agree with Keith. Get the surgery ASAP because the sooner you get it the sooner your shoulder is ready to go. I’d bet that you could coach people just fine with a shoulder that can’t handle riding. Remember, what you have to offer is insight and experience as well as riding skill demonstration. I’m sure you can find a local pro or ripping amateur to help you with demonstration of skills/moves, while you stand by and explain what he’s doing. Give yourself more credit, Lee. You can coach with a healing shoulder!!

  4. Idris says:

    Hey Lee,

    Here’s an opportunity to mentor. Are there people in your life you would like to teach some of the wide array of non-biking skills you have? I can’t help but think you have a pretty good support network. Seems to me you’re like an awsome one man show – maybe its time to delegate. Get the surgury cause you know its the right decision for the long run and get creative with your support network. Could be a win-win!


  5. Lisa says:

    The others are right. I took a few lessons from you. I had a lot of personal issues going on at the time. Your words were so insightful. What you had to say didn’t just apply to riding a bike, but more to life in general. I remember you even saying that and it seemed so profound at the time. Thanks for the mental coaching as well, Lee!

  6. Jeff Kendall-Weed says:

    Dude, it’s only 6 months for a full recovery… You’d be better by early August. You’d be 100% for Keystone and Sol Vista. Plus it’s not like you can’t use a monopod/tripod to hold your camera while you shoot for the BMX book. And surely you can figure out a way to get a keyboard closer to your body so you can type with very little shoulder movement. Traveling will be tough, but you’ll manage.

    Besides, you’ll heal in 4 months. Better by June. Although you likely wouldn’t be racing in the Sea Otter, the race report you’d post as a spectator would be pretty amazing.

    That’s great news that a full recovery would only be 6 months, you can totally handle that. I’ve got $5 that you’re riding again in 3 months.

  7. Stephen says:


    Sounds like you need some surgery, a monopod, a mac, and cyclocross bike. The surgery to take care of the shoulder, the monopod for camera support, the mac for voice recognition typing software and the cx bike for pinning it one handed (been rocking that myself for a few months).

    But seriously, just from what I have read on here, without actually knowing you, seems like you could never let yourself take it easy and pinning it full up with that knowledge is going to be hard. Git’r’done and be ready to rock for the fall season.


    ps. Does this means lessons will be half price for the next six months?

  8. Chris says:

    I’m reluctant to suggest it, but while you are recovering, you could still do plenty of riding on…

    … a recumbent bicycle!

    My stomach churns to think about it, but desperate measures for desperate times.

  9. leelikesbikes says:

    OK, this is gonna come out eventually, so I better fess up:

    My name is Lee, and I ride a recumbent. It’s a Vision R65 Saber. It is handmade cromo, with full Ultegra. It is sick! I used to commute on it (yeah, with a pink flag).

    It lives on a trainer, but I’ll take it outside if I have to!

    Gotta find that helmet mirror …

  10. Jerry says:

    Dude that sucks. I probably should get my shoulder looked at, too, but thankfully I’m still blissfully ignorant…
    But you’ll heal up quick and be psyched training for ’09.

  11. Rich says:

    Lee, get it done ASAP. Just had distal acrmioclavical reconstruction and rotator cuff repair done. Like you, I needed to work done for a while now and finally bit the bullet 5 weeks ago now. It sucks to be down for that long, but think about the other side of the coin, if you go down again and completely blow out your shoulder, you’re really gonna be bummed.

  12. jimmy says:

    “The thing is, I need my shoulder to make a living. Cameras, bikes and even computers work best with two hands, and my busy season is coming right up. I can delay the surgery until Fall, but can I safely pin a downhill run — or even demonstrate a tricky move — with this knowledge rattling in my head?”

    2 things TDI (temporary disablility insurance) and Long-term Disablility Insurance. Most States have some sort of TDI mandatory through insurance companies.

    Long-term is something you buy on your own with insurance companies.

    Most people buy life insurance which only benefits someone else other than yourself. Disability insurance protects should you get laid up for 3 months or up to age 65 if you really screw yourself bad.

    Something to think about for the future.

  13. danny says:

    Ignorance was bliss, but now that you know, you likely won’t be able to ride without thinking about it. Get the surgery now, you’ll be better in no time. Look at Carter Holland, he was riding within (IIRC) 3 months after having his arm almost ripped off. Speedy recovery to you.

  14. Dan says:

    I just read a bit out of your shoulder chronicles, and as it turns out I find myself in exactly the same position, almost. I didn’t break any bones but I have torn all the ligaments that connect my clavical and scapula. I can ride but only feel about 75% right now, but I am still competitive (I took forth in DS at Chalk Creek 2 days ago in Expert 19-30) which deepens my mental strife. I am looking full on at throwing away everything I have worked towards this year if I have surgery now not to mention work and such, or I can limp through the season risk the possiblility of further injury and get cut in the fall. I have been talking to a lot of people trying to figure this out, and just wanted to know what your decision was and why. I am having a lot of trouble making this decision and I’m trying to gather as much insite as possible. My goal for the season is to be in semi-pro by next year, and even with my injury it looks like it might be possible so I am having a really really hard time trying to figure out what to do. Your two cents would be greatly appreciated.

  15. Dan says:

    By the way I’m 24 and pretty health (although I don’t feel that way right now) if that helps with advice.

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