Could supplements reduce shoulder fracture risk?

Shoulder fractures, particularly clavicle fractures, are a common and very painful injury suffered by athletes. Contact sports in particular carry a high risk; though they can also be caused by a bad fall or injury. Fractures can take months to heal and for keen athletes they can have a devastating impact on their career.

Recent evidence provided by an ESCEO-IOF expert panel suggests calcium and Vitamin D supplements could play a key role in minimising the risk of a fracture.

Supplements prove effective at promoting healthy musculoskeletal ageing

shoulder fracture and supplementsThe European Society for Clinical and Economic Aspects of Osteoporosis, Osteoarthritis, and Musculoskeletal Diseases (ESCEO) along with the International Foundation of Osteoporosis (IOF) recently came together to analyse the evidence that vitamin D and calcium supplements can help promote healthy musculoskeletal ageing.

They specifically wanted to address whether such supplements could reduce the risk of fractures. Using all current knowledge and evidence presented for both the benefits and adverse reactions reported, the board came to the following conclusions:

  • Fracture risk is slightly reduced – taking calcium and vitamin D supplements together do appear to slightly reduce the risk of fractures. However, calcium alone hasn’t proven to have the same effects so the supplements would need to be combined.
  • Vitamin D reduces the risks of falls – obviously not all falls can be prevented, particularly if you’re taking part in contact sports. However, studies show that vitamin D when taken alone, can reduce the likelihood of patients suffering a bad fall. This discovery was surprising given the fact that calcium is more closely linked to muscle physiology.
  • Those at risk of calcium and vitamin D insufficiency receive most benefits – in terms of fracture reduction, vitamin D and calcium supplements tend to work best for those at a high risk of vitamin insufficiency.

So, it appears supplements do have some positive effects in terms of reducing fracture risk and they’re also promoted for osteoporosis treatment. However, further in-depth studies are required to establish just how much of an effect they have on the muscular and skeletal system.

Understanding shoulder fractures

There are several types of shoulder fractures to be aware of. These include clavicle, scapula and proximal humerus fractures.

In general, clavicle fractures tend to be the most common and are typically the result of a fall. Scapula fractures are the least common and are mostly caused by high energy traumas such as a car accident or a high fall. Finally, proximal humerus fractures occur in older patients, usually over the age of 65.

Diagnosis varies depending upon the type of fracture experienced. Some require a simple X-ray, while others may need to be analysed in depth via a CT scan. If you suspect you have a fracture it’s important to seek diagnosis and treatment as soon as possible. If you take part in sports you will need to wait until the shoulder is fully healed before you can start playing again.

Overall, using supplements to reduce your fracture risk certainly won’t harm you. However, those at high risk would be much better off working to build up the shoulder muscles which help to protect the bones. Calcium and vitamin D supplements would also be better suited to older patients, particularly as traumatic clavicle fractures have been linked with a doubled mortality rate for patients over 65 years, as evidenced in a 2011 study published in the Journal of Orthopaedic Trauma.