Childhood was funny. While I endured my share of bumps and bruises, I never sustained one broken bone. However, many of my equally active friends could be found, on occasion, with a cast here or a sling there. One of the most popular of injuries, and the one about which many held bragging rights, was a broken collar bone, usually incurred through repeated jumping on a bed until firm footing was lost and they found themselves on the floor next to the bed, dazed, confused and wondering how loudly Mom might yell at them for this. It was exciting to brag about a broken the collar bone while jumping on the forbidden zone of Mom and Dad’s bed!
Collar bone fractures, also known as clavicle fractures (try to say that as a seven-year-old), are common injuries and can occur in a variety of ways. Some patients may fall on an outstretched hand (or simply run out of bed space). Others may occur from a direct hit to the collar bone area. Even during birth, babies’ collar bones can fracture as they progress through the birth canal. When kids or young teens sustain an injury of this type, it is because the clavicle does not fully develop until around the age of 20 and is therefore more susceptible to breaking. Athletes are also prone to this type of injury.
The collar bone is part of the shoulder and helps to connect the arm to the body. It rests above several nerves and blood vessels. It's a long bone and most breaks occur in the middle section.
The most noticeable symptom associated with a broken collar bone is shoulder pain and pronounced difficulty in moving the arm. The area may become swollen and bruised around the area of the broken bone. The fracture can usually be felt through the skin once the swelling has subsided.
The patient may appear to have a sagging shoulder and may notice he or she is unable to lift the arm simply because of the pain. There may be a certain grinding sensation if the arm is raised, or a bump may appear over the fracture site.
Usually, an X-ray will reveal the fracture. The doctor should perform an examination to make sure that the nerves and blood vessels around the clavicle are in tact. Fortunately, the nerves and blood vessels are typically not affected when the collar bone breaks.
Treatment for this type of fracture usually involves resting the affected area. A sling or a brace wrapped around the shoulders to keep them back may be worn. Surgical intervention is highly unlikely, unless the fracture is significantly displaced or shortened. Anti-inflammatory medications can help to reduce the pain and swelling.
When returning to normal activities, the best guideline is to realize that you should do nothing to worsen the pain. Sometimes not wearing a sling can cause pain. Wear the sling only if minimizes the pain.
If driving aggravates the fracture, don’t get behind the wheel. If it hurts to throw a ball, you may have to sit out a few games. Take a gradual approach to getting back into the activities you enjoy. Once the bone has healed, there should be little, if any, limitation to the function of the shoulder.
(Information for this article was found at http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00072 and http://orthopedics.about.com/cs/brokenbones/a/collarbone.htm)