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Broken Collarbone
(Broken Clavicle)

Broken Collarbone (Clavicle) Facts

  • The clavicle (commonly referred to as the collarbone) is a bone found on both sides of the chest that connects the sternum or breastbone to both shoulders. A fractured clavicle is the medical term used when the collarbone is broken.
  • A broken collarbone can be caused by trauma (sports injuries, car accidents, falls, etc.), genetically weak bones, or illness such as osteoporosis or cancer. The clavicle of a newborn may break during delivery.
  • Symptoms of a fractured collarbone include a pop or click sound and feeling when the collarbone breaks, followed by sharp pain. The area will hurt when the arm is moved. The skin over the break may bulge outward, and there may be bruising.
  • A broken collarbone requires medical care and an X-ray of the clavicle is usually needed. You may be referred to an orthopedic specialist for treatment.
  • Treatment for a broken collarbone usually requires a sling or figure-of-eight splint to keep the area immobile for several weeks. In some cases, surgery may be required.
  • Most clavicle fractures heal within 4 to 8 weeks. Physical therapy may help with rehabilitation.

What Causes a Broken Collarbone?

Some people can break their clavicle without any trauma. These people usually have weak bone structure either because they were born with it (genetic cause) or from an acquired cause (such as osteoporosis or cancer).


  • Occasionally during delivery of an otherwise healthy baby, the forces involved in trying to deliver the baby from the mother can break the collarbone. This is the most common bone broken in babies is during delivery. This is usually detected in the hospital, and the baby recovers well.
  • Even more rarely, a physician may have to break the infant's collarbone in order to deliver the baby safely. This only occurs when a process known as shoulder dystocia develops. There are many other techniques available to overcome this, so it is rarely practiced today.

Children and adolescents

  • The collarbone is the most commonly broken bone in childhood. These breaks are usually the result of falling directly on the shoulder or on an outstretched arm during play or sports. They can occasionally be the result of a direct blow to the collarbone, such as during tackling in football, or being crosschecked during hockey or lacrosse.

Adults and the elderly

  • Broken collarbones in adults can occur from the same sports activities that cause similar injuries in children but are usually associated with automobile accidents and falls. Occasionally, a patient that has a seizure will fracture the clavicle.
Last Reviewed 8/30/2017

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Broken Collarbone Treatment and Recovery Time

Many broken collarbones heal on their own. If you don't need surgery, you will use a sling to keep your arm and shoulder from moving while the bone heals. An adult wears a sling for a few days or up to a week. A child may need one for 3 to 4 weeks.

You can begin simple exercises immediately and move on to strengthening exercises when they don't cause pain. Ask your doctor when it is safe to begin to exercise. If you start too soon, the broken collarbone may not heal well. If you are active, do not play sports or other activities until you can move your shoulder easily and it feels strong.

To help relieve pain, try acetaminophen or a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, such as ibuprofen or naproxen.

Surgery may be recommended for severe breaks. When the ends of the broken bone do not line up with each other (displaced), surgery is more likely. Many experts believe surgery is especially important in young, active people.

After surgery, you will use a sling for up to 6 weeks. Your doctor or physical therapist will teach you gentle exercises to keep your shoulder moving for about 6 weeks, until you can start exercises to get your strength back. Most people have returned to all their activities by 3 months after surgery.


Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Fracture, Clavicle »

Clavicular fractures are common injuries that account for approximately 5% of all fractures seen in the ED.

Read More on Medscape Reference »

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