A broken collarbone is a common injury, particularly in children and young adults. The collarbone is what connects the upper part of the breastbone to the shoulder blade.
Seek prompt medical attention for a broken collarbone. Most breaks heal well with pain relievers, a sling, ice, physical therapy and time. However a complicated break can require surgery to realign the broken bone and implant any necessary plates, screws or rods into the bone to hold it in place through the healing process.
- Increased pain with shoulder movement
- A bulge on or near your shoulder
- A grinding or crackling sound when you try to move your shoulder
- Stiffness or inability to move your shoulder
- Newborn children will often not move their arm for several days following a birth-related collarbone fracture.
Common causes of a broken collarbone include:
- Falls, such as falling onto your shoulder or onto your outstretched hand.
- Sports injuries, such as a direct blow to your shoulder on the field, rink or court.
- Vehicle trauma from a car, motorcycle or bike accident.
- Birth injury from passing through the birth canal.
Until about age 20, the collar bone doesn’t harden entirely. As a result, children and teenagers are at a higher risk of breaking their collarbone. The risk decreases after age 20, however the risk then rises again in older people as bone strength decreases with age.
Most broken collarbones heal without difficulty. Complications, when they occur, might include:
- Nerve or blood vessel injury. The jagged ends of a broken collarbone may injure nearby nerves and blood vessels. If you begin to notice numbness or coldness in your arm or hand, you should seek immediate medical attention.
- Poor or delayed healing. A severely broken collarbone may heal slowly or incompletely. Poor union of the bones during healing process can cause the bone to shorten.
- A lump in the bone. As part of the healing process, the place where the bone comes together forms a bony lump. This lump is easy to see as it develops close to the skin. Most lumps disappear over time, although some are permanent.
- A fracture involving the joints connecting your collarbone to your shoulder blade or your breastbone, may increase your risk of developing arthritis in that joint over time.