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Clavicle Fracture

The clavicle is most commonly referred to as your collarbone. It is a long, thin bone that connects the sternum (the vertical bone at the center of your ribcage) to the shoulder. A clavicle fracture, or broken collarbone, is a common injury in many sports.

Clavicle Fracture Hero Image 2

The clavicle is most commonly referred to as your collarbone. It is a long, thin bone that connects the sternum (the vertical bone at the center of your ribcage) to the shoulder. A clavicle fracture, or broken collarbone, is a common injury in many sports.

What causes Clavicle Fracture?

Usually, a clavicle fracture occurs when you fall on an outstretched arm or directly on your shoulder. It can also happen due to a collision in contacts sports.

Clavicle fractures are common in these sports:

• Cycling
• Skateboarding
• Skiing or snowboarding
• Football
• Wrestling
• Rugby
• Lacrosse
• Hockey

Symptoms

Athletes with a clavicle fracture may experience these symptoms:

• Pain and swelling in the area of the collarbone
• Bruising over the collarbone
• A visible bulge or deformity where the bone has broken

Sometimes the pain resulting from the clavicle fracture can make it hard to move your arm.

When to see a doctor

If you have pain over your collarbone after a fall or collision in your sport, you should see your doctor so that he/she can check for a clavicle fracture. Your doctor will ask you about your injury and your symptoms, and then do a physical examination. In order to make a diagnosis, your doctor will need to order an x-ray.

Non-operative treatment

Many clavicle fractures can be treated non-operatively. Conservative treatment will usually involve:

• Icing the area of your fracture to reduce swelling and pain (every two to three hours for 20-30 minutes)
• Using an arm sling or shoulder immobilizer to keep the clavicle bone aligned as it heals
• Over-the-counter medication like acetaminophen for pain

Surgical Treatment

If the clavicle fracture is displaced, which means that the broken ends of the bone do not line up, your doctor may recommend surgery. The most common surgery used to treat clavicle fractures is open reduction and internal fixation (ORIF). During this operation, the surgeon makes an incision over the break and shifts the broken ends of the clavicle bone into the correct position. He/she then applies a plate and screws to the bone to keep it aligned as it heals.

Recovery

Recovery time after a clavicle fracture depends on the severity of the injury and whether the fracture is displaced. After a non-displaced fracture, you may be able to get back to regular activities in as little as three months. Athletes who have surgery for a displaced fracture may have a three to six month long recovery.

For the first four to six weeks after your injury, you will need to avoid raising your arm higher than the shoulder level or lifting weight on the injured side. Physical therapy will begin with elbow exercises to avoid arm stiffness, followed by gentle shoulder exercises. These will be an essential part of your treatment, helping to regain strength and range of motion in your shoulder. You may return to play after the bone is completely healed and you have full range of motion and strength in your shoulder.

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