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Clavicle Fracture

Injuries to the clavicle (collarbone) and acromioclavicular (AC) joint are among the most common upper extremity sporting injuries. The clavicle attaches to the chest at the sternoclavicular (SC) joint, and to the scapula and arm at the AC joint. Injuries occur with a fall directly onto the shoulder or clavicle, and are frequently seen in mountain biking and contact sports. Clavicle fractures can also occur in older patients with a history of osteoporosis. Most fractures occur in the middle 1/3rd (mid shaft) of the clavicle.

Patients with clavicle fractures will have pain, tenderness, and swelling at the site of the fracture. There is usually a bump at the fracture site, and bruising will occur within about 48 hours. Patients with clavicle fractures will often have pain and weakness with attempts to use the arm on the affected side. Rarely, the fracture can compress blood vessels and nerves, causing numbness and tingling in the arm.

In patients with a suspected clavicle fracture, radiographs are taken in order to see if there is indeed a clavicle fracture.

Most clavicle fractures take about 6 to 8 weeks to heal, although pain will subside after 2 to 3 weeks.

  • A brace or sling is necessary until a doctor recommends it be discontinued, usually at approximately 6-8 weeks. Return to sports is usually at 8-10 weeks, once strength has been regained in the arm.
  • The clavicle fracture heals with new bone formation around the fracture site, which often leaves a bump under the skin. This bump will remodel over the course of the following year and will get smaller, but will rarely disappear entirely.
  • Most people with clavicle fractures have an excellent outcome with return to normal activities and a pain-free shoulder at 3-5 months after injury.
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Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Medical Center.

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