The clavicle is a bone that runs from the part of your ribcage known as the sternum to your shoulder joint. It is the only bony connection between the arm and the central skeleton. Fractures in the clavicle are a common sports injury and account for around 2.6% of all fractures in the United States each year. Over a third of all fractures clavicles in men occur between the ages of 13 and 20 – highlighting the high burden of sporting injuries that contribute to the total number of clavicle fractures a year. Fractures typically occur in the middle third of the bone – with around 70% of all fractures happening here. However, 28% occur in the distal third (and only a couple of percent occurring in the proximal third closest to the ribcage).
How do you fracture your clavicle?
In one study it was found that around 87-90% of all fractures to the clavicle occur when patients fell onto their shoulder. The exact cause of a fall onto a shoulder can vary with sports and traffic accidents being by far the most common in younger people.
How do I know I have fractured my clavicle?
Usually, patients will be able to localize the break, pointing with their finger almost exactly to the broken part of the bone to indicate where the pain is. You may also notice a visible bulge as the bone comes out of place – if you feel along the bone you might feel a step or a point where bone can’t be felt.
What are my options for clavicle repair?
There are a whole host of conservative and surgical options that can help heal a broken clavicle. The individual management plan will be based on the patient and their needs. Specialist centers across the USA are able to provide the best level of individualized care. However common treatment options include:
- Usually, the fracture needs to be stabilized and you shouldn’t move the shoulder. Therefore most centers will offer a sling. Some centers might offer you a “figure of eight bandages” which allows you to move the elbow and use your hand for daily activities – but it is typically less comfortable than the slings.
- Most specialists will offer you pain relief if you are still struggling with significant pain. This can be NSAIDs like Ibuprofen or codeine if the pain is more severe
- If the clavicle is not healing then your surgeon may consider an operation to realign the clavicle.
How long until I can return to sport?
Unfortunately, there is no easy way to say how long you’ll be out of the sport. The vast majority of patients are back to work and sport after 6 to 8 weeks – but some patients who are returning to high contact sports like football may need to wait. Many surgeons will tell you that athletes should not return to sport until they have a full range of motion in the affected shoulder, normal strength, and no pain with pressure applied over the clavicle. Athletes should also wait at least a month after clinical fracture healing.