Bruised Sternum & Sternum Fracture

Sternum injury

A bruised sternum is caused by direct trauma, or impact to the sternum bone in the middle of the chest. In more severe cases, a fracture may occur, or a dislocation of the sternoclavicular joint.

Bruised sternum

A bruised sternum, or sternum contusion as it is also known, occurs after an impact to the sternum or breastbone. This more frequently occurs if you have had a road traffic accident. However, colliding with opponents, hard balls or implements can also result in sternum injuries.

Symptoms of a bruised sternum

You will be aware of a specific point where your injury occured. Bruised sternum symptoms occur suddenly and consist of:

  • Breastbone/sternum pain.
  • Your sternum will feel tender to touch.
  • Coughing and sneezing are also likely to reproduce pain.
  • Bruising may appear later.

Treatment for a bruised sternum

If the pain is severe seek medical attention as soon as possible. Your doctor will perform a full examination and may order X-rays to determine if you have sternum or rib fractures.

Treatment of a bruised sternum requires rest for 2-4 weeks to allow the bone to heal. Ice and anti-inflammatory medication may be advised by the doctor to help ease pain and inflammation.

Sternum fracture

A sternum fracture is a break to the breastbone. A sternal fracture is most often caused by a direct impact to the bone, at the front of the chest.

This is most frequent in road traffic accidents. There will be sharp chest pain at the front of the body and bruising may appear. The injury will need to be assessed and monitored to ensure no further damage is made.

Sternum fracture symptoms

  • Symptoms of a fractured sternum include a sudden onset of pain at the front of the chest after an impact or fall of some kind.
  • Pain is usually well localised and does not radiate.
  • It will be very tender to touch the fracture area and bruising may start to appear after a few hours.
  • Up to 20% of patients may demonstrate breathing difficulties.


Fractured sternums most frequently occur during road traffic accidents. A fractured sternum may also occur during chest compression as performed during CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation).

Fractures of the breastbone may also happen with considerably less force and have been seen in golfers and weightlifters previously. Older people with Osteoporosis may also be more at risk.

Whilst a fracture is a common injury which is often straightforward to treat, a sternal fracture should be examined thoroughly and put under observation for other complications.

These may include pulmonary and cardiac contusions (bruising of the lungs or heart) or damage to the aorta (main artery from the heart). If the fractured part of the bone has been displaced, this is more likely to cause further complications.


Treatment of a sternum fracture which has not been displaced generally involves rest and the use of painkillers or anti-inflammatory medications.

If the bone fragment has become displaced, a surgical procedure may be required to re-align the two bone pieces and possibly fix them with pins or screws.

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