Broken collarbone

The collarbone is the bone that links the shoulder blade to the upper region of the breastbone. Collarbone injuries are often caused due to sports injuries, falls, assaults, traffic accidents etc.

Children are often victims of collarbone injuries; however, infants may also suffer from broken collarbones during delivery.

Signs and symptoms

  • Pain—increases due to movement
    First Aid - Triangle Bandage

    A triangle bandage, pictured above, can be used to help immobilize a patient with a broken collarbone.

  • Tenderness in the affected  region
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • A bulge on the shoulder
  • A crackling or bulging  sound while moving the shoulder
  • Inability to move the affected region

When to seek medical attention

If you suspect that you or anyone around you has experienced a broken collarbone, or if the pain in the shoulder is causing discomfort or the stiffness of the shoulder is not allowing you to move it properly, seek medical help promptly. A delay in treatment may lead to a poor healing process.

Treatment

  1. Seek immediate medical attention. Take the person to the emergency room or the nearest health care provider for prompt treatment.
  2. On the way, immobilize the arm, if possible. It is important that you do not try to move the arm that is affected. Hold the affected arm near the body using the other arm. You may also sling the arm with the hand elevated above elbow level.
  3. Ease out the symptoms of the broken collarbone. This includes pain and swelling. For swelling, apply an ice pack–this will reduce pain as well. Additionally, you may give the casualty over-the-counter pain medication such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen to reduce pain. Avoid taking pain medication if there is a break in the skin–they may in turn require surgery to treat. Avoid giving aspirin to young children and teenagers under 18 years of age.

    Broken collarbone

When the casualty reaches the hospital, the doctor may examine the broken collarbone through X-rays to see the condition of the chest and shoulder. Additionally, he may also sling the arm in order to immobilize it and also place a figure eight strap to maintain position.

For broken collarbones, surgery is not often required.

Learn More

For more information about broken bones and how to manage, recognize and help enrol in the following Red Cross programs:

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