A collarbone (clavicle) fracture occurs when there has been a direct blow to the collarbone by direct impact.
The clavicle is located between the sternum (ribcage) and the scapula (shoulder blade). The sternal (medial) end of the clavicle connects it to the sternum and the acromial (lateral) end connects it to the acromion. The clavicle connects to the scapula through the acromioclavicular (AC) joint of the shoulder.
The clavicle functions as a strut to support the weight of the shoulder blades and arms by keeping the acromion out to length, thereby enhancing the lever arm actions of the humerus. It also protects neurovascular (nerves & blood vessels) structures within the body that supply the upper limb.
A clavicle fracture is among one of the most common injuries for individuals especially in active children and young adults. A clavicle fracture occurs when the collarbone is met with sudden or excessive monumental force, and the bone itself splits, fractures, or breaks. Due to its prominence and rigidity within the human body, clavicle fractures are very common as they occur regularly in athletics, recreational sports, accidents, and other physical occurrences.
Common causes of a clavicle fracture include:
- Falling onto the body’s shoulder or outstretched hand causes excessive load transmission across the collarbone.
- Sports injuries such as direct blows to the shoulder, chest, shoulder blade, back, or the collarbone directly.
- Motor vehicle trauma/accidents. Air Bag impact on those too close to the dashboard has been known to increase the risk of a clavicle fracture.
- Those under the age of 20 years old with underdeveloped collarbones who participate in contact sports or recreational activities
There are many indications of a fractured clavicle. Most of which include:
- Swelling of the collarbone
- Tenderness of the collarbone
- A bulge on or near the shoulder
- Grinding or crackling sounds in the collarbone or shoulder
- Stiffness or inability to move the shoulder
- Pain that increases with shoulder movement
- Decreased range of motion in the shoulder
- Newborns will often not move their arm(s) for several days following a collarbone fracture resulting from passing through the birth canal
Symptoms of a clavicle fracture warrant immediate medical attention. Delays in diagnosis can alter and slow the healing progress and may result in many complications.
These complications include the following:
- Nerve or blood vessel injury – The jagged ends of a fractured clavicle can injur nearby nerves and blood vessels leading to numbness of coldness in the arm or hand.
- Poor healing – A severely fractured clavicle may heal incompletely. Poor combination of the fractured parts of the bone during healing can shorten the bone leading to a decreased lever arm for muscle function along the humerus, which leads to muscle fatigue and weakness.
- A lump in the bone – The place where the bone comes together forms a bony lump as part of the healing process. Most lumps disappear over time, but some can be permanent.
- Osteoarthritis – A fracture involving the joints that connect the clavicle to the scapula or the sternum might increase the risk of developing arthritis in the relative joint(s).
During an exam, your orthopedic specialist at LALL Orthopedics + will check and test the clavicle for tenderness, swelling, deformities, and open wounds. X-Rays are most commonly used to determine the extent to which a clavicle is fractured or broken. You doctor may also recommend a CT scan (CAT scan) to get more detailed images. A CT scan is an X-ray image rendered using a form of tomography in which a computer dictates the motion of the X-ray source, processes the data, and produces the image.
Dr. Ajay C. Lall is a former dual sport NCAA collegiate athlete (football and track & field), American board certified, triple fellowship-trained expert orthopedic surgeon who specializes in hip arthroscopy, robotic hip replacement and cutting-edge regenerative medicine such as platelet-rich plasma (PRP) and Stem-Cell therapy. He treats non-athletes and athletes at all levels of play from collegiate to professional to the Olympic level. Dr. Lall is a world-renowned orthopedic surgeon who cares for all patients like family. Contact LALL Orthopedics + to schedule a consultation, receive the correct diagnosis, and undergo state-of-the-art treatment options.
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If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms of a clavicle fracture or have fractured your clavicle, it is vital to seek immediate attention from a medical professional.
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Ajay C. Lall, MD, MS, FAAOS
- Board Certified – Orthopedic Surgery
- Triple Fellowship Trained
- Performs over 750 Surgeries Per Year
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