What is it?
A fracture of the clavicle refers to a break in the collarbone.
How does it happen?
The clavicle is usually fractured following an impact to the point of the shoulder. The impact may be with a
stationary object, such as the ground or wall, or with a moving object, such as an opponent. Similarly, the
clavicle may be fractured when you fall on either your elbow or an outstretched hand. When this occurs, the
force of the impact is transmitted along the bones in the arm to the clavicle. If the force is sufficient the
clavicle may break.
How does it feel?
The first sensation felt when the clavicle is fractured is extreme pain experienced somewhere between the
bottom of the neck and point of shoulder. There may also be an audible snap or crack as the bone breaks.
When you look at your collarbone, there may be an obvious deformity or bump. This is due to either
displacement of the broken ends of the bone or early bleeding and swelling around the site of the fracture.
What should you do?
A fracture of the clavicle is a serious injury. If you have or suspect you have a fracture of the clavicle, you
should stop participating and seek the assistance of a sports medicine professional. To support your arm
whilst travelling you should wear an arm sling or, if one is not available, fold up the bottom half of your
jumper or shirt to support and cradle your arm. To help with your pain and reduce and control any swelling
you should apply ice to the shoulder. Ideally, this should be in the form of crushed ice wrapped in a moist
towel or cloth applied for up to 20 minutes.
What shouldn’t you do?
If you have or suspect that you have fractured your clavicle, you shouldn’t perform any activities which may
cause the broken ends of the bone to move on one another. To do achieve this you shouldn’t use the
injured arm until it has been assessed by a sports medicine professional. In addition, you should avoid any
activities which may increase the blood flow to the injured area. These include hot showers, heat rubs,
massage and the consumption of alcohol. These may increase the bleeding around the fractured ends of
bone and potentially prolong your recovery.
Could there be any long-term effects?
Most fractures of the clavicle heal without complication in a matter of weeks. This may leave a visible bump
in the bone. However, this is a cosmetic problem in that it is a deformity which is pain free and doesn’t
interfere with the use of your arm. In a small number of cases the broken ends of the bone fail to heal or
‘unite’. When this occurs you may need latter surgery or alternative treatments to stimulate healing.
The assistance of a sports medicine professional is important in the treatment of a fractured clavicle.
Initially, they can assist in diagnosing the injury and the extent of the damage. This may require the use of
an X-ray to view the bone. From this, the sports medicine professional will be able to provide you with a
determination of how long the injury is expected to take to heal and determine an appropriate treatment
program. If your clavicle is fractured, the latter will usually involve wearing a sling for the first few weeks
followed by a series of exercises designed to return you back to participation and reduce the risk of ongoing
problems. The newest research suggests surgical repair of the clavicle is needed when the bone has been shortened by the injury.