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What Is a Fractured Clavicle | Broken Collarbone

A fractured clavicle is a common sports injury that requires quick treatment

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Updated May 06, 2011

Clavicle Fracture

Clavicle Fracture

A.D.A.M.
A fractured clavicle is a common sports injury that is often the result of a direct impact to the clavicle (collarbone), the upper arm and shoulder or a fall on an outstretched arm. The clavicle, or collarbone, is easy to see or feel on most people. This long bone runs from the top of the sternum laterally to the top of the humerus and is part of the shoulder girdle.

Signs and Symptoms of Clavicle Fracture

Pain and an inability to raise the arm is one sign of a shoulder fracture. The pain may be moderate or severe and may accompany redness and bruising. Some fractures are obvious because the bones in the should simply look out of place. The diagnosis (and severity) is made with an X-ray.

Treating Clavicle Fractures

The first line of treatment is to realign the bones so they can heal in the correct position. Healing occurs while the bones of the clavicle and arm are held in place with a strap or sling. Surgery is sometimes needed if the bones are severely displaced or if an athlete is anxious to return to sports quickly.

Fractures of the clavicle generally heal without surgical intervention once the bones are properly aligned. Some new surgical techniques can be used to improve bone stability and speed healing in athletes who hope to return to sports sooner. One treatment technique involves screwing a small titanium plate to the collarbone over the fracture site to hold the collarbone in place as the fracture heals. This method provides added support and stability and helps maintain alignment while the bones fuse together naturally.

This type of procedure is generally simple and the patient goes home the same day. The plate is often left in place after healing.

With this type of surgical intervention, athletes can often return to activity sooner than if they let the fracture heal naturally. In general, a clavicle fracture heals in six to eight weeks. With the insertion of a plate healing may occur in about four weeks.

Clavicle Fracture Rehab Exercises
Once the bones have fused and the fracture has healed, physical therapy exercises are prescribed. These exercises begin with simple range of motion exercises and progress to building strength and restore function. A complete return to sport will depend upon the severity of the fracture and the rate of healing.

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