Clavicle Fractures (Broken Collarbone)
The clavicle, or the collarbone, is the joint that runs from the shoulder in towards the breastbone. It’s the only bony attachment of the shoulder to the rest of the skeleton.
The clavicle is most commonly injured by taking a direct blow to the point of the shoulder. It’s very common in athletes such as football players, soccer players, and also in cyclists who happen to be involved in a collision. We can also see clavicle fractures commonly in patients who sustain major trauma such as a fall from a height, or someone involved in a motor vehicle collision.
Clavicle fractures are usually pretty easy to pick up right away because there’s not a lot of skin covering the collarbone, so usually there’s a pretty significant deformity that someone can see. It’s usually very tender to the touch. The best way to diagnose a collarbone injury is with X-rays. That will show us how severe the break is and if there is a lot of shortening or displacement, which can help guide our treatment options.
Fortunately, most clavicle fractures can be treated without surgery. A lot of times, a short period of sling immobilization, followed by some physical therapy, is a great way to treat most clavicle fractures, as they will often heal.
In some cases with certain people, especially high-level athletes and other people who have physically demanding jobs, it may be better to fix the clavicle with a plate and screws. This involves surgery, obviously. The way we make that decision depends a lot on the person and if they’re a high-level athlete or what they’re looking to get back to, as well as what their fracture looks like — how shortened it is, how angled it is or how displaced it is.