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Symptoms and Signs of Broken Collarbone

Doctor's Notes on Broken Collarbone
(Broken Clavicle)

A broken collarbone is a fracture of the collarbone, medically known as the clavicle. Traumatic injury is the typical cause of a clavicle fracture. In particular, falling onto an outstretched arm or on the shoulder may create enough pressure to break the collarbone. Collarbone fractures are relatively common injuries.

Signs and symptoms of a broken collarbone include pain, swelling, bruising, and tenderness over the collarbone. The pain may cause an inability to raise the arm or move the shoulder. Other associated signs and symptoms can include a lump or deformity visible at the area of the break, sagging of the shoulder downward and forward, or a grinding or crackling sound or feeling experienced when trying to raise the arm.

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 3/11/2019

Broken Collarbone
(Broken Clavicle) Symptoms

  • A broken collarbone most often causes immediate pain in the area of the fracture.
  • Some people report hearing a snapping sound.
  • Most people tend to hold their arm close to their body and support it with their other hand. This avoids movement of the shoulder which would aggravate the pain. Despite the pain, some people, particularly younger athletes, can have a surprising range of motion of their arms following a broken collarbone.
  • The shoulder of the affected side is usually slumped downward and forward due to gravity.
  • If the clavicle is gently touched along its length, pain is usually greatest at one point, locating the break. Often a crunching feeling is noted over the break, known as crepitus.
  • The skin over the break often bulges outward and can be discolored a reddish-purple, indicating an early bruise.

Broken Collarbone
(Broken Clavicle) Causes

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.

Osteoporosis Super-Foods for Strong Bones With Pictures Slideshow

Osteoporosis Super-Foods for Strong Bones With Pictures Slideshow

Nothing beats calcium for your bones. Sure, you can get it from dairy, but it’s also found in lots of vegetables. Why not do both? One great choice: dark leafy greens such as bok choy, Chinese cabbage, kale, collard greens, and turnip greens. One cup of cooked turnip greens has about 200 milligrams of calcium (20% of your daily goal). On top of that, dark greens also have vitamin K, which can reduce your risk for osteoporosis.


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.