Although fractured collarbones are a common injury in all ages, they are particularly common in children and young adult. This is because the bones have not yet hardened completely, which usually occurs in adulthood. The collarbone, also called the clavicle, is a long, thin bone located between the shoulder blade (scapula) and breastbone (sternum). There are two collarbones, one on each side of the breastbone, which help keep the shoulders in line. Below the clavicle are a number of vital blood vessels and nerves, although they are rarely affected when there is a fractured collarbone.
Fractured collarbones are frequently due to falls or accident. Always seek medical help if a person has a fractured collarbone. Mild collarbone fractures can heal well with minimal treatment. But moderate to severe collarbone fractures may require surgery. Recovery time will depend on the precise location and severity of the fracture.
Fractured Collarbone Causes
Fractured collarbones are often due to direct blow to the shoulder. Some of the common examples include:
- Fall onto the shoulder or onto an outstretched hand
- Motor vehicle accidents, but can also occur from motorcycle or bike accidents
- Sports injuries, such as from football, hockey, etc.
- In babies, may occur during passage through the birth canal
- In extremely rare cases, physician may have to break the infant’s collarbone for safe delivery
Fractured Collarbone Symptoms
Apart from an obvious deformity in the collarbone, the symptoms of fractured collarbone are similar to those of any fractured bone in the body, which can be any one or in combination of the following:
- A snap felt or pop heard at the time of the injury
- A crackling or grinding sound when the shoulder is moved
- Pain that increases with shoulder movement and is greatest in point of break
- Swelling and bruising, which usually manifests within 30 minutes of injury
- A bulge on or near the shoulder, indicating an early bruise
- Difficulty moving the shoulder or inability to move the shoulder at all
- Weakness or numbness in the shoulder
Fractured Collarbone First Aid Management
Immediate treatment should be given to anyone suspected of a fractured collarbone. Call for emergency medical services immediately. Immobilization of the shoulder is crucial to treatment. To administer first aid:
- Immobilize the arm by first keeping it close to the body. If possible, create a sling with the hand elevated above the elbow.
- To reduce pain and swelling, apply an ice pack or cold compress to swollen area. Do not apply ice directly to the skin and instead wrap it around a towel.
- Over-the-counter pain medications, such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen may be taken, unless it is an open fracture.
Disclaimer: This article is for information purposes only and not meant to substitute for medical advice or first aid training. To learn how to treat and manage fractured and other fractures in the body, enroll in First Aid Training.