Clavicle Fracture

A clavicle fracture or broken collar bone as it is also known is a fracture of the clavicle bone which runs along the front of the shoulder to the breast bone or sternum in the middle of the chest.

Symptoms

A clavicle fracture will usually have happened as a result of a fall onto the shoulder or an outstretched arm. The main symptom is pain on the collar bone which may be severe. There could be swelling over the area and a bony deformity may be felt.

Explained

Clavicle and scapulaThe collar bone or clavicle is the bone that runs along the front of the shoulder to the breast bone or sternum at the front of the chest. It is usually fractured as a result of falling badly onto an outstretched arm or onto the shoulder itself or in a collision with an opponent in a contact sport such as Rugby or American Football. The likelihood of injury is increased if the playing surface is particularly hard.

The bone usually fractures in it's middle third and is very painful. The outer part of the bone often gets pushed down with the inside part displaced upwards.

A distal clavicle fracture where the bone breaks nearer the shoulder at the acromioclavicular joint occurs in approximately 15% of injuries. These fractures take longer to heal and are more prone to non union.

Treatment

If you suspect you have a broken collar bone then seek medical assistance or a doctor immediately. An x-ray will confirm the fracture.   The arm will then be immobilized with either a figure of eight bandage, sling or collar and cuff. A figure of 8 bandage is designed to prevent the collar bone shortening as it heals and is usually preferred to the sling.

Pain relief is the main aim in the early stages and a doctor will usually prescribe pain relieving medication. After a period of complete immobilization (1-2 weeks), the arm should then be gently moved to prevent shoulder stiffness. In particular shoulder flexion exercises to 90 degrees which means moving the arm from the side up to horizontal in front.

Rehabilitation will involve regaining full range of motion using mobility exercises and stretches, as well as ensuring strength is not affected. The injury is likely to take 4 to 6 weeks to heal. You should not do any sports or even running until it has properly healed. You may, however, be able to cycle on a stationary bike.

Surgery is not usually required for fractures of this type. Open fractures where the bones pierce the skin or non-union of the bones after 6 weeks are more likely to require surgical intervention.