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St. Mary's Center for Orthopaedics

Fractures of the Shoulder (Scapula, Collarbone)

The collarbone, also called the clavicle, is the bone over the top of your chest, between your breastbone (sternum) and shoulder blade (scapula). It is easy to see and feel the clavicle, because unlike other bones, which are covered with muscle, only skin covers a large part of the bone.

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.

Signs and Symptoms of Clavicle (Collarbone) Fractures

Pain and an inability to raise the arm is one sign of a shoulder fracture. The pain may be moderate to severe.  Swelling and bruising around the broken bone are common. Some fractures are obvious because the bones simply look out of place or, after the swelling has subsided, the fracture is easily felt through the skin.  The diagnosis (and severity) is made with an X-ray.

Treating Clavicle (Collarbone) Fractures

Treatment of clavicle fractures begins by realigning 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. It is unusual for a clavicle fracture to require surgery.  Surgery is required in some situations if the bones are severely displaced or if an athlete is anxious to return to sports quickly.  Clavicle fractures generally heal completely within 12 weeks and usually the pain subsides within just a few weeks.