A clavicle fracture is a break in the clavicle bone (also called the collarbone). It connects the sternum (breastplate) to the shoulder. The clavicle can fracture in three different places:
A clavicle fracture is caused by trauma to the clavicle bone. The trauma is usually caused by:
Risk factors that increase your chances of fracturing your clavicle include:
Symptoms of a fractured clavicle include:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms, physical activity, and how the injury occurred. He will also examine the injured area. Tests may include:
Treatment will depend on the severity of the injury. Treatment involves:
Most clavicle fractures can be treated with a figure-eight strap, which is wrapped around the body and the shoulders, or a sling. These devices help hold the shoulder in place while the clavicle heals. The doctor may prescribe pain medication.
Very rarely, surgery may be needed to set the bone. The doctor may place pins, a plate, or screws in the bone to hold it in place. You will need to wear the sling or figure-of-eight strap while you heal.
When your doctor decides you are ready, start range-of-motion and strengthening exercises. You may be referred to a physical therapist to assist you with these exercises. Do not return to sports activity until your shoulder is fully healed.
To help prevent clavicle fractures:
Since clavicle fractures are nearly always results of falls or blows, there is not much that can be done to prevent them. However, use of proper protective equipment, such as shoulder pads, is preventive.
The best way to prevent reoccurrences of a clavicle fracture is to only return to practice and competition when all symptoms of the injury are gone and strength has returned to normal. Furthermore, the rehabilitation exercises should be continued to ensure protective strength, range of motion, and stability of the injured area.
Other preventive techniques include:
The key to improving sports performance after recovering from a clavicle fracture is a proper rehabilitation program, and adhering to some of those same principles after the injury is gone. Keep in mind that a clavicle fracture is most often the result of a fall or blow, and you can better prepare yourself for these incidences by paying close attention to the rehabilitation exercises listed above. These will not only keep you in the game, but will also help you perform better and with more confidence.
As an athlete, your number one concern is getting back to full strength as soon as possible so that you can return to training and competition. That is why appropriate rehabilitation is extremely important. Rehabilitation for a clavicle fracture often includes the following:
Most clavicle fractures can be rehabilitated with a figure-of-eight strap, which is wrapped around the body and the shoulders, or a sling. These devices help hold the shoulder in place while the clavicle heals. Your doctor also may prescribe pain medication and rehabilitation exercises once the strap is removed.
The major objectives of rehabilitation from a clavicle fracture are to increase flexibility, establish pain-free range of motion, and strengthen the muscles of the shoulders, upper back, front chest, and upper arms. In severe cases, you should avoid activity that causes shoulder pain altogether.
Keep in mind that rehabilitation for a clavicle fracture may be different when the injury requires surgery to put the pieces of the bone back in position. In these cases, your doctor may prescribe special physical therapy. Recovery time will vary.
Rehabilitation exercises often prescribed by your doctor may include:
Depending on the severity of the injury, some of the above exercises, and perhaps others of similar nature intended to increase the range of motion of the injured shoulder, may be prescribed to be done in water or a warm whirlpool apparatus. Water relieves the arm of some of its weight, thus allowing a greater pain-free range of motion, while warm water and a water massaging effect may also be effective.
During the period when normal training should be avoided, alternative exercises may be used. These activities should not require any actions that create or intensify pain at the site of injury. They include:
Surgery is rarely needed to set a broken collarbone - putting the pieces of the bone back in position. Your doctor may place pins, a plate, or screws in the bone to hold it in place, and you will need to wear a sling or figure-of-eight strap while you heal.
When your doctor decides you are ready, you may start range-of-motion and strengthening exercises. You may be referred to a physical therapist to assist you with these exercises. Under no circumstance should you return to sports activity until your shoulder is fully healed.
A physical therapy program usually begins with range-of-motion and resistive exercises, then incorporates strength training, aerobic and muscular endurance, flexibility, and coordination drills.
To some extent, the time to fully recover is influenced by your dedication to your rehabilitation program. A child may heal as quickly as 3 to 4 weeks, while an adolescent may take 6 to 8 weeks to heal. Adult athletes who have stopped growing may require 8 to 10 weeks of healing time before returning to their sport.
Return to full participation should be avoided until your clavicle fracture has healed and you can perform all skills and other requirements of your sport without pain. To return earlier is to invite further injury, making subsequent fractures more likely. This is especially true when the sport involves heavy contact, such as in football, hockey, or rugby.
Generally, the athlete who wishes to return to a contact sport should expect to be out of action for 6 to 12 weeks. Again, the time to return to full activity depends on the dedication toward your rehabilitation program.
Remember: the goal of rehabilitation is to return you to your sport or activity as soon as is safely possible. If you return too soon you may worsen your injury, which could lead to permanent damage. Everyone recovers from injury at a different rate. Return to your activity is determined by how soon your clavicle fracture recovers, not by how many days or weeks it has been since your injury occurred.