Clavicle fractures are extremely common. Broken collarbones occur in babies (usually during birth), children and adolescents (because the clavicle does not completely ossify, or develop, until the late teens), athletes (because of the risks of being hit or falling), or during many types of accidents and falls.
How does a collarbone fracture occur?
Clavicle fractures are common injuries, and they can occur different ways. Some patients fall on an outstretched hand, others fall and hit the outside of their shoulder. Broken collarbones can also occur from a direct hit to the clavicle. In babies, clavicle fractures occur at birth during passage through the birth canal.
What are the symptoms of a broken collarbone?
Most often, patients have shoulder pain, and difficulty moving their arm. Swelling and bruising around the broken bone are also quite common. After the swelling has subsided, the fracture is often easily felt through the skin.
At the doctor's office or in the emergency room, an x-ray will show the fracture. Your doctor will also perform an examination to ensure the nerves and blood vessels surrounding the clavicle are in tact. The nerves and vessels are rarely injured because of a broken collarbone.
What is the treatment for a clavicle fractures?
Treatment of clavicle fractures most commonly involves resting the affected extremity. There are several types of slings available; one commonly used is called a"figure-of-8" splint. This is a brace that wraps around the shoulders to keep them back--like a soldier standing at attention.
It is unusual for a clavicle fracture to require surgery, and most often an attempt at treatment in a sling is made. Surgery is required in some situations when either the skin is broken or if the fracture is severely displaced or shortened.
How long does it take to recover from a collarbone fracture?
Clavicle fractures should heal completely within 12 weeks, but the pain usually subsides within a few weeks. Often patients are back to full activities before 12 weeks has passed, especially with younger patients.
As a general guide to return to activities, nothing should cause worsening pain. If not wearing a sling causes pain, wear a sling. If driving hurts the fracture site, don't drive. If throwing a ball hurts, don't throw. Once an activity doesn't cause significant pain, a gradual return can be attempted.
Recovery is usually complete, with a full return expected. Patients may notice a persistent bump where the fracture was (often for months or longer), but this should not be bothersome.