Slings: Lancaster vs Collar and Cuff


The clavicle is a sod of a bone to break. There just isn’t that much you can do with it and, if the skin isn’t broken, for the amateur folk in the UK at least, natural healing is the preferred low cost treatment. So, for a comfortable rehabilitation sling choice is all important.

After my second break and several cumulative weeks of sling wearing experience behind me, I’m now a bit of an expert on the things. I hope you never have to go through it, here’s my advice…

You find yourself in A&E cradling your arm against your chest. You shift around on the seat and grimace as bone scrapes against bone. The doctors send you off for an X-ray to confirm what you already know. Back in A&E a nurse will probably come in with a reel of foam, a zip tie and some sticking plaster. In the best Blue Peter tradition they’ll cobble together a collar and cuff sling; a figure of eight loop pinched together by the zip tie and neatened off with the sticking plaster; a nominal gesture to prevent future fraying. One loop goes around the neck and the other around your wrist.

Back home, your other half has been around all the local pharmacies and supermarkets to bulk buy the necessary quantities of paracetamol and ibuprofen. You’re consuming them like smarties, but the collar and cuff is still bloody uncomfortable. Your arm pulls down on your neck; even my skinny cyclist arms become a dragging dead weight after a while. Your wrist goes limp – it’s about the only thing that does, every other part of your arm to the neck stiffens uncomfortably. After a couple of days the foam has stretched.

First time around I got so fed up with the discomfort it was causing I went back to the hospital. They gave me a Lancaster sling to try. They’re a bigger hit on the NHS budget, but compared to most other breaks collar bones are managed on the cheap. I didn’t feel guilty wearing it and I don’t have impending obesity issues to worry the budgets with.

The Lancaster has a foam arm which supports the whole forearm and is supported by an over the shoulder loop instead of around the neck. Overall the design is a huge leap forward in comfort. You can even adjust them using velcro straps. Visually they look better too – dark blue rather than peach which soon becomes grubby peach. They’re also more obvious, they shout “injured person”, something which comes in very handy if you have to resort to using the tube.

But don’t think the Lancaster sling is perfect – it has one design flaw. Collar and Cuffs may be uncomfortable but they are at least cool. With a Lancaster it’s like wearing a muff and in warm June sunshine it does get uncomfortably and prickly warm. Still, I suppose in the winter it’s wonderfully snug. The Lancaster, as you can imagine, is also a poor choice for turbo training, collar and cuffs aren’t great either, so here’s a tip I got from a club mate: use an old inner tube – surprisingly comfortable and the smell! Inhale the worn rubber, close your eyes and you could almost imagine you’re back on the road!

So, if you ever do need a sling for your fubar’d collar-bone, ask for a Lancaster, put up with the slight discomfort of warm weather and dig out an old inner tube when you decide to hit the turbo. I am sick of my turbo.

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About velorichard

Riding a bike around Cambridgeshire looking for some hills
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