A broken collarbone is typically due to direct contact to the shoulder or the collarbone. This is likely to occur while playing certain sports such as wrestling, football or ice hockey.
The collarbone is usually fractured and young men ages 13-20 are susceptible. As for younger children, they face a higher risk for ending up with a broken collarbone during play.
What are the indications?
- Immediate pain that occurs after a fall or being struck on the collarbone or shoulder area.
- Inability to elevate the affected arm due to pain
- Grinding sensation when attempting to lift the affected arm
The affected shoulder will not always appear out of alignment. In case a deformity is apparent, it manifests as a bump or inflammation on the collarbone or AC joint. Take note that the bone rarely pierces through the skin but might push the skin out which causes it to have a tent appearance.
A broken collarbone is not usually a serious injury. In rare instances, the injury can damage the ribs or lungs or even compress the nerves or blood vessels. This might result to paleness, tingling and numbness of the arm.
A broken collarbone can heal on its own. Surgery is not necessary and the injury usually requires a sling to limit unnecessary movement in the arm and shoulder as the bone recuperates. Adults should use a sling for few days or up to a week. As for children, the sling is used for 3-4 weeks.
Simple exercises can be started immediately and move on to strengthening exercises if pain is not triggered. The individual should ask the doctor when it is safe to start exercise. If started early, the broken collarbone might not heal properly. Among those who are active, it is not advisable to engage in sports or other activities until the individual can move the shoulders easily.
For pain relief, acetaminophen can be given or a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) such as naproxen or ibuprofen.
Quick Note / Disclaimer
The material posted on this page on a broken collarbone is for learning and educational purposes only. To learn to recognize and manage fractures including a broken collarbone, register for a first aid and CPR course with Toronto First Aid.