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Know All About a Broken Collarbone

Collarbone or clavicle is the bone that is positioned horizontally between the top of the breast bone (sternum) and shoulder blade (scapula). One can feel the collarbone by touching the area between the neck and shoulder. A broken collarbone, also known as a clavicle fracture, happens when this bone breaks. The surgery (if necessary) is done with the help of ortho implants which are provided by the orthopedic implant suppliers.

How Does a Broken Collarbone Occur? 

Falling hard on a shoulder or an outstretched arm can be a reason for broken collarbone.

Such injuries are quite common in contact sports like wrestling, football, rugby, hockey, and lacrosse. It can also happen in sports where there is a chance of falling hard, such as skiing, biking, snowboarding, and skateboarding.

A collarbone also can break in case of an accident like a car crash or if someone is hit by a car.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of a broken Collarbone?

Someone who breaks a collarbone may have:

  • pain over the collarbone
  • trouble moving the shoulder or arm on that side
  • tenderness, swelling and bruising along the collarbone
  • a bulge or “tenting” of the skin above the break

How are Broken Collarbones Diagnosed? 

To diagnose a fracture of the collarbone, a health care provider will:

  • ask about the injury
  • do a physical examination
  • do X-rays

How are Collarbone Fractures Treated?

Most broken collarbones heal with arm support, ice, pain medicine, and exercises. The arm is supported either by a shoulder immobilizer or a sling. A shoulder immobilizer is similar to a sling but it also has a strap that goes around the waist.

While the collarbone heals:

  • use ice for pain and swelling. Put a cold gel pack, icepack, or bag of frozen vegetables over the collarbone for 20 to 30 minutes every 2 to 3 hours. Be sure to put a towel between your skin and the ice/cold pack.
  • Use the shoulder immobilizer or sling as directed by your health care provider. You will wear it for about a month but can remove it during sleeping and bathing.
  • Follow instructions of your health care provider for using medicine for pain.

For about the first 4 to 6 weeks:

  • Avoid raising your arms above shoulder level
  • Avoid lifting anything that is more than 5 pounds (2.3 kg) in weight. This is about the weight of a 72-ounce bottle of liquid laundry detergent.
  • Stay out of all physical education and sports.
  • Do all exercises to prevent shoulder and elbow stiffness and to help with muscle strength.
  • Go to physical therapy, if required.
  • Go to all follow-up appointments.

Call your health care provider if your swelling or pain gets worse.

Will the Collarbone Heal Straight?

Even if the broken bones are not perfectly lined up, the body generally can make them straight again. That is because the collarbone has a thick periosteum (outer layer of the bone). The collarbone periosteum does not generally break, so it acts like a sleeve to hold the bone together while it heals. Sometimes the doctor might recommend surgery if the broken bones are way out of line. The surgeons use orthopedic implants and instruments procured from orthopedic instrument manufacturers.

Occasionally while the broken collarbone heals, there is a bump where the bone was broken.

Sometimes the bump does not fully go away. But it does not hurt or cause other problems with the shoulder or arm.

When Can one Go Back to Sports?

The health care provider will check and decide when it is OK to go back to sports. This is usually when:

  • There is no pain when the health care provider presses on the collarbone
  • Your strength of shoulder is normal.
  • You can move and use the shoulder and arm without pain.
  • In general, people can go back to noncontact sports (such as swimming or running) in about 6 weeks and contact sports (such as lacrosse, football, and hockey) in 8-12 weeks.

Can Broke Collarbones Be Prevented?

Because collarbone fractures occur suddenly and unexpectedly, it can be difficult to prevent them. But to decrease your risk:

When playing contact sports, wear all the recommended protective gear and learn the accurate techniques for your sport.

Keep your bones strong by eating a well-balanced diet. Be sure to eat lots of foods and vegetables that are rich in vitamin D and calcium to help build strong bones.

Do strength training and stretching to build flexible, strong muscles. Muscles that are flexible and strong will help support your bones better and keep you agile and less likely to experience a hard fall. A correct warm-up, including dynamic stretching exercises, can help your muscles perform at their best during play.

Wear supportive, well-fitting footwear that is right for your sport.

Looking Ahead

Most broken collarbones heal completely and quickly. Within some months, one should be back to doing all the things that one enjoyed before the injury.

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