What are the causes of a collarbone fracture?
The collarbones are well-felt bones under the skin, lying on both sides of the upper chest. They form the shoulder girdle and condition the proper functioning of the shoulder. Collarbone fractures occur during falls on the shoulder and chest area. These are falls from a height, even a small one, often during sports activities, e.g. from a bicycle.
Less commonly, the cause of a collarbone fracture is a direct hit to this area – such a mechanism may take place during a car accident. A specific clavicle fracture occurs in newborns. Often it is the so-called “breaking the green branch”, that is, the one in which the bone clearly bends but its continuity is not interrupted.
These fractures occur in heavy labor. Risk factors for these fractures are high birth weight, unfavorable positioning during labor and surgical deliveries (e.g. with forceps). In very rare cases, such a fracture may be complicated by a damage to the baby’s shoulder plexus.
How common are clavicle fractures?
Clavicle fractures are quite common injuries that happen in different age groups – both in children and adults.
What are the symptoms of a collarbone fracture?
Symptoms of a collarbone fracture vary with the age of the patient. Clavicle fractures in newborns are manifested by impaired mobility of the upper limb, and after a few days, when the fracture has healed, a thickening in the clavicle area is noticeable.
Young children who have suffered this fracture are not always able to pinpoint a specific pain site and indicate pain in the entire upper limb. They keep their hand to their chest and don’t want to move it. Swelling and bruising in the fracture area are not always visible.
Older children and adults clearly feel pain at the site of a broken collarbone. In this area, there is a clear swelling, bruising, and sometimes deformation, if the fracture is significantly displaced. Pain is preventing movement in the shoulder.
Sometimes, especially with high-energy injuries (significant injuries, e.g. during a traffic accident), collarbone fractures may be accompanied by rib fractures, then the patients may also experience chest pain, difficulty drawing air into the lungs, and shortness of breath.
What to do in the event of such symptoms?
In the case of newborns, a collarbone fracture is usually diagnosed immediately after delivery by neonatologists examining the child while in the hospital after delivery.
For children and adults, a suspected collarbone fracture should be consulted by an orthopedic surgeon in the emergency room. Before we get there, stabilize the limb as much as possible – put the arm in a sling or bandage the limb to the chest. Cooling the sore area is beneficial, you can take over-the-counter painkillers (paracetamol or ibuprofen).