A clavicle fracture is a break in the collarbone, usually at the shoulder joint. The clavicle (or collar bone) is one of your essential bones and helps protect your chest from injury. It connects to your upper arm through two joints. One end of the clavicle attaches to the acromion process on the top of your shoulder blade. The other end attaches to your sternum or breastbone. A clavicle fracture can occur when you fall onto an outstretched hand, hit your head against something hard, or get into a car accident. In some cases, people who have had multiple fractures may be more likely to develop another clavicle fracture.
The clavicle has three parts: the body, the shaft, and the tip. The body of the clavicle is shaped like a triangle with rounded ends. This part of the clavicle runs along the front of your neck and shoulders. The middle section of the clavicle, called the shaft, extends down toward your chest. At this point, it becomes narrower and curves around your rib cage. Finally, the tip of the clavicle points backward toward your spine. It’s attached to your first rib.
Types of Clavicle Fracture
1. Near the sternum (least common)
A clavicular fracture is a break in your collar bone located just below your chin. Collarbones are strong bones that connect the shoulder blades to the rest of your chest. They help support your upper back and provide stability for your shoulders. Your collar bone is made up of three sections: the body, the neck, and the tip. When a person falls forward, the impact force causes the body portion of the collar bone to bend backward. Because the collar bone is connected to the shoulder blades, the force of the collision can also cause them to move outward. As a result, the tips of the collar bone can separate from the body and the neck.
This type of clavicle fracture occurs near the bottom of the clavicle. It’s caused by a direct blow to the side of your chest, such as being struck by a baseball bat or falling off a bicycle.
Most clavicle fractures happen because someone falls on their hands or elbows. Other possible causes include:
- Being thrown from a horse
- Falling off a bicycle
- Getting hit by a moving object
- Being involved in a motor vehicle crash
- Being punched or kicked
- Being shot by a gun
- Being bitten by a dog
- Being hit by a heavy object
- Being strangled
You may not notice any symptoms right away after a clavicle fracture. However, if the collar bone is badly broken, you might feel severe pain in your chest area. You may also experience swelling, bruising, tenderness, and numbness in the affected area.
Your doctor will ask about how the injury happened and examine you to determine whether there are any signs of internal injuries. They may order X-rays to check for breaks in the collar bone.
If you have done, don’t have any severe complications, you should be able to resume normal activities within a few weeks. But you may need to wear a sling or crutches while healing takes place. Afterward, your doctor may recommend physical therapy to strengthen your arm and shoulder muscles.
If you suffer internal damage, surgery may be necessary to repair the collar bone. Sometimes, doctors may remove pieces of the fractured bone to heal correctly.
There are many ways to prevent a clavicle fracture:
- Wear protective gear when playing sports or doing other dangerous activities
- Avoid riding a motorcycle without wearing a helmet
- Don’t drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- Use seat belts at all times
- Be careful around dogs, especially those who bite
2. Near the AC joint (second most common)
The clavicle is a long, thin bone that connects the shoulder blade with the sternum. It helps stabilize the shoulder girdle and provides attachment for several essential muscles. The clavicle has two parts: the body and the neck, which meet in the middle. The body is shaped like an upside-down “U,” while the neck looks more like a letter C.
The clavicle fracture occurs when one end of the bone separates from the other. This usually happens when a person falls onto their outstretched hand or elbow. If the fall is forceful enough, it can cause the body section of the clavicle to snap backward. This results in separation between the body and the neck of the clavicle.
This type is caused by a direct blow above the shoulder joint. For example, if someone falls on their back and hits their shoulder, the force travels up the arm and causes a clavicle fracture.
The most common cause of this fracture is being struck directly with a hard object such as a baseball bat, hammer, rock, etc. Another common cause is falling on stairs or off a ladder.
A clavicle fracture often causes sharp pain near where the bones separate. The area may also be bruising, swelling, tenderness, and numbness.
To diagnose a clavicle fracture, your doctor will take x-ray pictures of your shoulder. These images show fractures clearly.
You may be able to return to work and play within 2-3 weeks. Your doctor may prescribe medication to reduce inflammation and pain. Physical therapy may help improve range of motion and strength. Surgery may be needed to realign the broken bones and fix them permanently.
- Wear protective gear when playing sports.
- Avoid driving under the influence of alcohol.
- Use seatbelts at all times.
- Be careful around dogs, particularly those who bite.
- Do not play contact sports such as football, hockey, basketball, soccer, rugby, etc.
- Avoid diving into the water.
- Avoid lifting heavy objects
3. In the middle of the bone between the sternum and AC joint (most common)
The clavicular fracture is caused when the ends of the clavicle are separated. This can happen when you fall forward onto your arms and hands or backward onto your chest. When the clavicle is cracked in half, it’s called a midshaft fracture. A midshaft fracture occurs when the clavicles’ ends are pulled apart.
This type occurs when the clavicle breaks in half. It happens when there is a direct blow to the shoulder area, but the impact isn’t strong enough to completely break the clavicle—instead, the bone cracks.
Midshaft fractures occur when the ends of the bones are pulled apart. They’re most likely to occur if someone falls on their arm or chest. Other possible causes include car accidents, motorcycle crashes, bicycle accidents, and sporting injuries.
Pain, swelling, bruising, and tenderness are typical signs of a midshaft fracture, mainly when they occur on the side of the injury. You may feel soreness in the shoulder and upper back.
Diagnosis & Treatment
Diagnosing a midshaft fracture depends on how much damage has been done to the bone. X-
rays are used to determine whether the bone is fractured. Depending on the extent of the injury, doctors may recommend surgery to repair the fracture.
- Ice for 20 minutes every hour after an injury.
- Apply heat for 10 minutes 3 times daily for the first few days.
- Take over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
- Rest until the pain goes away.
- Follow up with your physician.
- Wear protective equipment while participating in sports that involve throwing, hitting, or tackling.
- Always wear a helmet when riding a bike.
- Avoid driving under the effects of alcohol.
- Keep your head upright when getting out of a vehicle.
- Stay alert and avoid distraction when operating machinery.
- Don’t dive into shallow water.
A clavicle fracture is one of the most common types of pediatric fractures. It’s caused by trauma to the area between the shoulders and neck. A clavicle fracture can lead to significant pain and disability. Fortunately, most clavicle fractures heal without surgery. But, if the injury isn’t treated promptly, it could result in permanent scarring and deformity.
1. What should I do if I think my child has a broken clavicle?
Call 911 immediately. If you suspect a broken clavicle, take your child to the emergency room immediately. The ER will evaluate the injury and decide what treatment is needed. Your doctor may want to x-ray your child’s shoulder.
2. How long does a clavicle fracture usually last?
Most children recover from a clavicle fracture within two weeks. However, some people have more severe injuries than others. Some people experience continuing pain even months later.
3. Can a clavicle fracture be dangerous?
Yes. Clavicle fractures can cause serious complications such as nerve damage, blood vessel problems, and death.
4. Is a clavicle fracture painful?
The pain associated with a clavicle fracture varies depending on where the injury occurred. Most clavicle fractures hurt less than other types of injuries.
5. Will a clavicle fracture heal on its own?
No. Doctors use surgery to fix clavicle fractures. Surgery is typically recommended only if the fracture doesn’t heal properly.
6. Does a clavicle fracture affect growth?
No. Children who sustain a clavicle fracture don’t grow any smaller because of the injury.